Thunderhead: Arc of a Scythe, Book 2

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Thunderhead: Arc of a Scythe, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Sci-fi chiller ups the action, twists in fast-paced sequel.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 18 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Although primarily a sci-fi thriller, Thunderhead does address complex matters of philosophy, such as free will and ethics.

Positive Messages

Knowing that our bodily existence is finite gives meaning to our lives. Kindness and empathy are more important than ambition and success.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Rowan and Citra represent two opposing philosophies toward scythedom. He has gone rogue and off the grid, a vigilante dedicated to snuffing out corruption. Citra works within the system to oppose the new order. Both are highly capable and compassionate, and they take their missions very seriously.


Since it is the duty of the scythes to "glean" civilians, there are many scenes of violence in Thunderhead. Many minor characters are stabbed through the heart, but some unlucky individuals are beheaded, set aflame, showered by acid, and eaten by sharks.


Two minor characters engage in mild innuendo.


The incidence of swearing is fairly low, with one or two uses of "s--t" and "f--k," as well as a handful of "hell," "bitch," and "damn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An older character drinks alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this follow-up to the 2017 Michael J. Printz Honor Book Scythe, by Neal Shusterman, is set in a future where most of the human population is immortal but a few are chosen to die at the hands of mysterious officials known as "scythes." There are many scenes of violence -- mass murder, beatings and torture, and intimate killings -- which may upset younger, more sensitive readers. Strong language is limited to one or two uses each of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," 'bitch," "hell," and "damn." Minor characters indulge in crude flirting.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byStudiousStudent March 5, 2018

Good, but Not Quite What CSM Says

I agree with the other reviewer who mentioned that CSM did pick up on all of the sexual innuendo of Thunderhead. But, as far as I know, the book never even had... Continue reading
Adult Written byBryton Massie November 1, 2018

Dear Parents, (Discretion is required in this book)

This is an amazing book, I've read many reviews discouraging people from reading this book, all or lengthy although lacked fundamental details and were mor... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byJaakull November 11, 2019

Spoilers!! They do the do, and Common Sense didn't realize!

I'm writing this for parents; the main characters, Citra and Rowan do have sex at the end, and it seems that Common Sence didn't catch on to it. It is... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byRARAReyna June 29, 2018


Thunderhead is the second book in the Arc of the Scythe series (the first book is called Scythe). Thunderhead is a great book set in a dystopian future where hu... Continue reading

What's the story?

As THUNDERHEAD opens, both Rowan and Citra are putting their lives on the line to control the corrupt "new order" of scythes dedicated solely to their own ambitions. Rowan has become a mysterious vigilante, swooping down on self-serving scythes and making sure they are permanently dead. Along with her mentor scythe, Marie, Citra challenges the scythes openly and legally, even while there are attempts on her life. Meanwhile, the omniscient Artificial Intelligence known as Thunderhead watches over everything, even though it's forbidden to act directly against the scythes and their followers.

Is it any good?

Second volumes of a thriller series often have a hard time maintaining momentum, but this sci-fi chiller delivers a finale that gleefully upends every expectation. There is plenty to like about Thunderhead from its opening chapters, as Citra plays deadly political games and Rowan gets his hands dirty by gleaning the most corrupt scythes. Author Neal Shusterman poses tantalizing questions about free will and determinism but also keeps the novel's pacing taut and the action revved high. Rowan and Citra continue to be highly appealing characters, and even the villains possess interesting quirks. The climax of this volume is splendidly crazy, full of reversals and twists that no one will see coming. Readers will be left perfectly set up for the third volume, which may take the saga into space.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Thunderhead tackles questions of philosophy. Do people have free will, or are their fates determined by a higher power?

  • What would it be like to have the power of life and death over someone?

  • Thunderhead includes a lot of violent scenes. Is it easier to take violence on the page than on TV or in movies? Is violence ever justified? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science fiction

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