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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
Sci-fi chiller ups the action, twists in fast-paced sequel.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

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 byAllison R. March 5, 2018

Just a few additional details the official review omits

I read this book myself, for my own entertainment, and found the hard way that CommonSense Media's official content advisory was insufficient. Engaging in... Continue reading
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
Teen, 13 years old Written byReticulatus March 13, 2018


There is lots of violence, but it is good for anyone that is a strong reader if you like a dystopia book
Kid, 12 years old January 30, 2019


I think this book is as good as the first book(Scythe) if not better. With Rowan on the run and Citra becoming a great Scythe. Just as action packed as the fir... 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

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