Scythe, by Neal Shusterman, is a high-concept dystopian YA that came out a little later (2016) than some of the blockbuster successes of the subgenre — which is a damn shame, because it’s extremely competently done. Way way way better than, say, Divergent or The Maze Runner.
The world-building premise is that society has conquered natural death thanks to the emergence of an all-governing, all-wise AI called the Thunderhead, and the subsequent development of cures and healing nanites that can revitalize people if they die — even if they’ve fallen off a skyscraper. The only way you die in this society is if you are chosen to be “gleaned” by a “scythe.” The scythes are a self-governing body, the only people not subject to the complete control of the Thunderhead, and they choose who will die and how. The story here follows two apprentice scythes as they learn, from a variety of masters, the different approaches to killing and what it means to be a good scythe.
So here’s the thing. This book is extremely well done, and I enjoyed it, and I raced through it in two sittings. It’s also 100% disposable. I feel compelled to look at this next to The Kaiju Preservation Society, which annoys me more in retrospect and also as it starts getting nominated for awards in slots that could go elsewhere. This is also written by a prolific and extremely competent pop writer, there are definitely a couple of spots where the gears are showing … but. This guy actually filled out the outline, thought through the world he was creating and brought in some side threads that added to the coherence of a pretty tenuous core premise, and created distinct characters. He took a little care.
Am I going to pick up the second book in the series? Eh, probably not unless it’s front and center at the airport book store when I’ve forgotten to bring anything with me. But I was satisfied when I put this one down.