A sublime, energized heroine headlines this tale of a dark future.



A teenager proficient with knives seeks vengeance against a corrupt authority figure in this YA dystopian adventure.

Tessa is surviving in the city of Victor’s Dark District. Only the wealthy live in the Light District, with the Enforcers targeting any Darksiders trying to steal necessities like food and clothing. Employing her knife-throwing skills, courtesy of her father, Tessa faces off against Enforcers as she raids Light District warehouses. She anonymously steals supplies for Darksiders, always wearing a cap to hide a facial scar from Enforcers. These Robin Hood-style exploits earn her a nickname, the Scorpion, which soon both Districts know. Tessa also works with her romantic interest, River, and Elle, a rogue Lightsider whose father, Campbell, leads the Enforcers. But an apparent betrayal and a threat against Cass, the 10-year-old girl Tessa cares for, lead to the Scorpion turning herself in. Once inside Decay prison, Tessa aligns herself with her cell neighbor Pike, a former Enforcer trainee, and the two plan an escape. Tessa’s ultimate goal is revenge against Campbell, who, she learns, has devised a scheme that’s taking away jobs from Darksiders and putting money that should be theirs into his own pockets. Wilson’s swiftly paced tale is grim but entertaining. While the Dark District proves more harrowing than Decay, where Tessa regularly has food, her later problems escalate both the tension and the melodrama. For example, she remains torn between Pike and River; constantly worries about Cass; and debates whether certain friends are traitors. Tessa is a resounding protagonist; she’s capable, smart, and has enough flaws—including impatience—to be believable. The novel would have benefited from a backstory centered on Tessa showing how she mastered such skills as building and maintaining the bots she uses to “scout” areas. Regardless, it’s gratifying to watch her vigor and tenacity inspire others.

A sublime, energized heroine headlines this tale of a dark future.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64063-826-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Fear the reaper(s)…but relish this intelligent and entertaining blend of dark humor and high death tolls.


From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 2

Death proves impermanent in this sequel to Scythe (2016).

In a world run by the (almost) all-powerful and (almost) omniscient artificial intelligence Thunderhead, only the Honorable Scythes deal permanent death to near-immortal humans. Yet a growing contingent of scythes, feared and flattered by society and operating outside the Thunderhead’s control, are proving rather dishonorable. No longer apprentices, 18-year-olds Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch realize “the scythedom is…high school with murder” as they watch their fellow scythes jockey for power and prestige. Citra now gleans as Scythe Anastasia, questioning the status quo but also opposing the homicidally enthusiastic “new-order” scythes and their dangerous demagogue. Self-appointed as Scythe Lucifer, Rowan hunts other scythes whom he deems corrupt. Meanwhile, the existentially troubled Thunderhead questions its role as both creation and caretaker of humanity, sworn not to take life but fearing that its utopia will otherwise collapse into dystopia. Nationality and race are minimally mentioned—ethnic biases and genocide are considered very gauche—yet a population that defies death, aging, sickness, poverty, and war risks becoming bleakly homogenous, alleviated only by “unsavories” and scythes. This sequel digs deeper into Shusterman’s complex world and complicated characters, offering political maneuvering, fatal conspiracies, and impending catastrophe via a slowly unfurling plot and startling bursts of action.

Fear the reaper(s)…but relish this intelligent and entertaining blend of dark humor and high death tolls. (Science fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7245-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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