Book cover courtesy of Goodreads
Hi TBF readers! I hope that you are all staying healthy and reading some fantastic books! I have a suggestion that is particularly close to my heart today.
I have been going to Teen Book Fest for years now. Unfortunately, I had not read this author’s books when he attended in both 2014 and 2015 (I am still crying over this). It took me a couple of years after to read Neal Shusterman’s incredible work. The book that I keep coming back to, years after I read it is Shusterman’s Scythe, which I will forever assert to be one of the most creative and all around incredible books that I have read. The concept itself is chilling and fascinating. A society where death has been conquered but there is a group employed in controlling the population by taking life. A society ruled by a computer and controlled by a computer. The world building is phenomenal and Shusterman has this fantastic grasp on human psychology so he is able to sell this horrifying idea as realistic. The characters that Shusterman creates are neither sinners nor saints, but incredibly vibrant, sympathetic, and three dimensional.
I think that Shusterman’s story was one of the things that prompted me to become interested in psychology and philosophy, philosophy being one of my intended majors in college. It asked questions about what it meant to be human, what it meant to be alive, and what it meant to struggle with ethical questions. Citra and Rowan did not come up with perfect answers. Neither did Scythe Faraday. They all had different approaches, different ideas of right and wrong, different things that they placed importance on that colored their decisions. The third book of the trilogy was recently published and I loved that Shusterman did not decide to conduct an easy ending, where everything falls into place perfectly. Shusterman has never failed to make this incredibly alien world have a toll of truth. One of the more powerful treasures of this book is this: “My greatest wish for humanity is not for peace or comfort or joy. It is that we all still die a little inside every time we witness the death of another. For only the pain of empathy will keep us human. There’s no version of God that can help us if we ever lose that.” These are the types of questions that Shusterman struggles with. In a world where death has been conquered, what makes these people human? In a world where killing is a venerated profession, how can a sense of morality remain in society?
Shusterman’s story has never failed to make me think, question, consider. It is my favorite thing about his writing. I love that he forces the reader to grapple with these questions of life. Shusterman doesn’t offer easy answers, but he does ask fascinating questions. I think that the questions of human society and dilemmas of life and death perhaps are resonating even more during this pandemic. Because, despite all of the horror that Shusterman invented in society, he always gave a message of hope: “Hope in the shadow of fear is the world's most powerful motivator.” The powerful message of hope in the stories of Shusterman make them so compelling. This book series has been absolutely life changing for me and was one of experiences that helped me to realize my love of philosophy and psychology.
TBF authors are all incredible! Neal Shusterman has had a special impact on my life, and it is so amazing that he was in Rochester just five short years ago. I only hope that he decided to return to TBF sometime in the near future and I will get a chance to meet him in person.
Stay safe and healthy in this trying time! Read a couple of wonderful TBF books and take heart-- just as story heroes and heroines are able to get through anything, as a society, we will get through this and TBF will eventually happen!