Neal Shusterman

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Scythe Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Neal Shusterman's Scythe. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Neal Shusterman

Shusterman was born in Brooklyn, New York, and spent much of his childhood reading. His parents moved the family to Mexico City when he was sixteen, something that today, he credits for giving him a new perspective on life and confidence he couldn't have gotten anywhere else. He graduated from the American School Foundation in Mexico City and then earned bachelor's degrees in psychology and theater. Shusterman worked briefly for a Los Angeles-based talent agency after college, and within a year of his hire, he landed his first book deal and began writing screenplays. Many of his books, most notably his 2015 novel, Challenger Deep, have received honors and awards, and several—including Scythe—are being adapted for film. Shusterman currently lives in Southern California with his children.
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Historical Context of Scythe

Scythes in the novel overwhelmingly take their names from historical scientists, leaders, and philosophers, though for the most part, the personalities or beliefs of the scythes in the novel don't draw from their Patron Historics' personalities. The real Noam Chomsky, for example, has been vocally anti-war, unlike his scythe counterpart, while the Greek philosopher Xenocrates studied—alongside math and physics—ethics and virtue, areas where the scythe Xenocrates is severely lacking. Robert Goddard created the first liquid-fueled rocket (though he was considered a joke until after his death); Marie Curie conducted the first research on radioactivity and won two Nobel prizes; and Michael Faraday, a scientist active in the first half of the nineteenth century, studied electromagnetism and electrochemistry.

Other Books Related to Scythe

Scythe is one of a number of contemporary young adult novels that tackles immortality and inducting teens into powerful systems like the Scythedom. Cassandra Clare's series The Mortal Instruments follows young characters entering into a secret society that protects the world from demons, while Michael Scott's The Alchemist (part of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series) deals more with immortality. The question of immortality has been taken up by a number of authors writing for a variety of age groups, from Natalie Babbitt's children's novel Tuck Everlasting to Ann Rice's Interview with the Vampire—both of which also consider similar questions of power, ethics, and compassion that crop up in Scythe. Scythe also bears resemblance to Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus: both novels follow two teenage protagonists, a boy and a girl, as they learn from their mentors, nurse a crush on one another, and compete in a dangerous competition against one another that is supposed to leave one dead and one victorious.
Key Facts about Scythe
  • Full Title: Scythe
  • When Written: 2015
  • Where Written: California
  • When Published: 2016
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Bildungsroman, science fiction, dystopian fiction
  • Setting: MidMerica, several hundred years in the future
  • Climax: Citra receives the scythehood and "accidentally" gives Rowan immunity.
  • Antagonist: Scythe Goddard
  • Point of View: Third Person

Extra Credit for Scythe

Varied Work. In addition to his own novels, Shusterman has written several games in the "How to Host a Murder" series of murder mystery dinner party games. He was also approached by Orson Scott Card to write novels following several characters from Card's novel Ender's Game, though Shusterman wasn't able to accept the offer.