Scythe By Neal Shusterman

Title: Scythe

Author: Neal Shusterman

Publisher: Walker Books

First Published: 22nd November 2016

Blurb:

A dark, gripping and witty thriller in which the only thing humanity has control over is death.

In a world where disease, war and crime have been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional scythes. Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythes’ apprentices, and despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation, they must learn the art of killing and understand the necessity of what they do.

Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice and as Citra and Rowan come up against a terrifyingly corrupt Scythedom, it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser. (From Goodreads, 9th April 2019)

Review:

Scythe is a novel that is an uncomfortable look at a possibly utopian future, where life is now infinite and the resolution for stopping overpopulation is Scythes. Scythes are professional killers. More disturbingly Scythes are only ruled by themselves. Years of being ruled by themselves has lead to corruption and a lack of humanity in some Scythes. So in some ways this novel is dystopian.

We follow two teenagers who have been selected as Scythe apprentices. So we follow the the pair as they learn about killing and why it must be done. But soon they learn that only one will be chosen and they are pitted against one another, to the death.

This is a fast paced novel and in some ways time passes too quickly for relationships to feel as fully formed as they could be. This is a thrilling novel with mystery and high stakes. We read from the journals of various Scythes and learn the different schools of thoughts regarding Scythdom. Those that get a thrill from the kill vs those who understand the full gravity of what they are doing.

This is a chilling novel that takes turns that you don’t expect. The themes of corruption, morality and power play throughout this novel.

Scythe is the first in a series and sets the scene for change. Change that could go either way. It makes you question if utopia is ever possible and the importance of mortality.

A thrilling young adult novel with a unique premise and a great start to what I imagine is going to be a very impactful and lasting series. This series will be great for discussing and debating the topics and themes that it tackles. A great book for young adults to enjoy and discuss.

4 out of 5 stars.

My Name is Venus Black By Heather Lloyd

Title: My Name is Venus Black

Author: Heather Lloyd

Publisher: The Dial Press

First Published: 27th February 2018

Blurb:

Venus Black is a straitlaced A student fascinated by the study of astronomy—until the night she commits a shocking crime that tears her family apart and ignites a media firestorm. Venus refuses to talk about what happened or why, except to blame her mother. Adding to the mystery, Venus’s developmentally challenged younger brother, Leo, goes missing.

More than five years later, Venus is released from prison with a suitcase of used clothes, a fake identity, and a determination to escape her painful past. Estranged from her mother, and with her beloved brother still missing, she sets out to make a fresh start in Seattle, skittish and alone. But as new people enter her orbit—including a romantic interest and a young girl who seems like a mirror image of her former lost self—old wounds resurface, and Venus realizes that she can’t find a future while she’s running from her past. (From Goodreads, 9th April 2019).

Review:

“My Name is Venus Black” is a novel of mystery. What happened to to cause Venus to murder? What happened to Venus’s brother? Why is her relationship with her mother so fraught?

It is also a story of readjustment, leaning how to cope in a world that you have been so removed from. Learning to look after yourself and finding a place in a world where everyone knows what you have done. But this is a story of so many different stories. So many different relationships. It tackles so many topics that are important and show the blurry lines of right and wrong.

Structurally we mainly follow Venus, and the second narrative of Venus’s brother Leo’s story. We also see things from Venus’s mothers point of view as well, and the view of the individuals who look after Leo. There is a lot of mystery and I do not want to divulge too much. This is a novel that I went into blind and I think that is possibly the best way to read this book.

“My Name is Venus Black” is fantastically constructed, with multiple stories that keep you wanting to read more. You desperately want everything to work out, but with such a complicated past is that ever possible?

If you are looking for a novel with light mystery, complex relationships, and complex moral conundrums I would recommend “My Name is Venus Black”. Go into it not knowing much and you will be glad that you did.

I really love this novel, it is fantastically constructed and extremely well written.

5 out of 5

On a Scale of One to Ten By Ceylan Scott

Title: On a Scale of One to Ten

Author: Ceylan Scott

Publisher: Chicken House Ltd

First Published: 3rd May 2018

Blurb:

Tamar is admitted to Lime Grove, a psychiatric hospital for teenagers. 

Lime Grove is home to a number of teenagers with a variety of problems: anorexia, bipolar disorder, behaviour issues. Tamar will come to know them all very well. But there’s one question she can’t… won’t answer: What happened to her friend Iris? As Tamar’s emotional angst becomes more and more clear to her, she’ll have to figure out a path to forgiveness. A shocking, moving, and darkly funny depiction of life in a psychiatric world. (From Goodreads, 9th April 2019).

Review:

This was a novel that I enjoyed but it was very typical of the many mental health books that I have read in the past. Tamara is admitted to a psychiatric hospital due to a suicide attempt and her self harm. Tamara is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, a very underwritten about disorder, and really the reason I was drawn to this book.

This novel focuses on the relationships Tamara creates whilst at Lime Grove. But the relationships aren’t that well developed. But when you are admitted to a psychiatric ward you are placed with individuals and don’t have long to get used to their company. You are in a world where people’s most personal thoughts are shared, so relationships do become quite deep quite quickly, or what appears to be deep. So the setting itself may be part of the issue with the lack of development of relationships and is actually quite accurate of psychiatric hospital relationships for some.

I would say that some of this novel is very on point, whilst other parts aren’t that believable. There was a lack of focus on treatment and looking at ways to change thinking and working on a better set of coping strategies, which I feel is an important aspect to novels like these. However, it is based in a hospital ward and many people do not realise that the main point of an acute psychiatric ward is to get someone stable enough so they can work on their issues outside of hospital. The hospital is to keep an individual or others safe and reach a stage that they can engage in therapy once discharged. So I feel that this was an accurate description but I feel that recovery work should be looked at in novels like these. The ending felt rushed but did focus on the concept of hope, which is possibly the most valuable part of recovery when it comes to mental health issues.

This is an own-voices novel, and therefore the author has personal experience of mental health issues and this may be accurate to how she herself felt. I felt the thoughts and feelings of Tamara really did show a real insight into the mind of an individual diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. The Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) setting was a reliable account, although I feel that some of the staff were not at all realistic, whilst others seemed pretty on point. I understand that you are going to get good and bad members of staff but I feel you are more likely to get good, some bad and some okay, and this balance was not made for me personally. But everyone has a different experience and different hospital experiences depending on the ward that an individual is admitted to so this is likely a really good representation of some wards. I think because it contrasted with my experience a bit that is why I found it difficult to relate to completely. Some parts rung true whilst others didn’t, and my own bias has probably resulted in my opinion on this.

There is also a bit of a mystery going on. What happened to Iris? And this is an intriguing plot point for the novel. And one of the reasons I liked this novel. It provides a story to follow rather than the novel being solely focused on mental health symptoms.

Overall I feel this is a book that was mixed for me, but is an account worth reading, and does depict the mind of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder well. It is in some ways very accurate, but as I have said I feel books about mental health difficulties have a responsibility to address recovery and look at things that can help. But the importance of hope, at least, was focused on.

3.5 out of 5