By Jack Taylor The future is a scary place in Neal Shusterman’s “Arc of a Scythe” series. “Scythe,” the first installment, was released in 2016, and the sequel “Thunderhead” just came out in January. Set in a futuristic world where humans have found a way to achieve immortality and governments have eroded, society has created a unique way to keep the population from growing too much. In exchange for immortality, several humans become “scythes,” people who pledge to kill unbiasedly in order to keep balance in the world. After several centuries of this process, Shusterman drops the reader into a time of strife. Scythes are beginning to abuse their powers and kill at excessive rates in gruesome manners. This is when we meet the two heroes, Rowan and Citra. Forced to learn the “art of killing,” the two characters are pinned against each other to see who will be a better scythe. The victor will have to kill the other in their first “gleaning,” which is the new word for murder. It makes the reader become immersed in a society unsure of what is morally right and wrong. The best part of Shusterman’s writing is his willingness to make the reader uncomfortable. Throughout the first book, the reader encounters many gruesome gleanings in which dozens of people get murdered. While graphic, it is a poignant metaphor for how our society is becoming desensitized to death and violence. Additionally, Shusterman’s commentary of how humanity has become bored with life and learning stifles the reader into thinking twice about wanting to live forever. With deep messages, haunting visuals and, yes, romance, the “Arc of a Scythe” series is bound to leave readers clamoring for more. You can read more about “Scythe” and its sequel, “Thunderhead” on Goodreads.