Friday, June 29, 2018

Young Adult Fiction: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

And once again, we have come to the final week of YA Fest. We have already worked our way through four great YA titles that 2018 has offered us, and today we finish it all off with Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2) by Neal Shusterman. The story of Citra and Rowan continues as more is revealed of the world where the occupation of Scythe is deemed necessary. And as usual with a sequel in a book series, I issue the mandatory spoiler alert to anyone who has not read the first one.

The Situation: It has been a year since Citra was awarded the title of Scythe and has begun conducting her own gleanings. Still under the wing of the Honorable Scythe Curie, Scythe Anastasia, as Citra has chosen to be called, has adopted a somewhat unorthodox method of gleaning that has both angered and intrigued the Scythedom. The attention she has received has resulted in someone making attempts on her life, and Rowan will do anything he can to save her, except he is a wanted man who must look over his own shoulder. With an inability to meddle in Scythe matters, even troubling ones, the Thunderhead must recruit someone it trusts to help where it cannot.

The Problem: Above everything, the Thunderhead wants to help. But when it comes to the Scythedom, the most it is allowed to do is watch. Even recruiting an innocent such as Greyson Tolliver to do what it cannot is a dicey move at best. He cannot be told directly what he needs to do, or why he needs to do it. And his actions will bring him a significant amount of unwanted attention from those who do not want him to succeed. Intervention from an all knowing, all seeing being is exactly what needs to happen for the events currently in motion to be stopped. But the Thunderhead is perfect. And breaking its own laws would mean it is not perfect. So does this mean it will only sit back and watch as the people it wants to protect tear themselves apart?

Genre, Themes, History: This is a young adult novel set in a future where death is no longer a thing, and the same is true for war, famine, and disease. In this second book, Shusterman decided to have plenty of the action take place from the (nearly) all seeing vantage point of the Thunderhead, which is essentially the Cloud we know of today, but completely aware and sentient. It takes care of everything for humankind, and the only thing it cannot meddle with is the Scythedom, which is really a shame because the organization that is left to rule itself seems on the verge of falling apart from the inside out. Corruption and politics abound, and even though she has only been a Scythe for a year, Citra has already managed to make a few enemies. In Scythe, the entries between chapters mostly came from the journal of Scythe Curie, but occasionally came from other Scythes central to the story. In the second book, the thoughts and the musings of the Thunderhead take center stage as it ruminates on humankind, the Scythes, and even its own existence. While it may be incredibly capable, it is no true god, and is not in fact perfect, though it claims to be. Thunderhead also gives us a closer look at Unsavories, the class of people drawn to criminal activity with a desire to be against authority, even if the authority is a benevolent computer program. Shusterman has already said there will be a third book, so like a true middle book of a trilogy, this one leaves many loose ends and questions.

My Verdict: Sequels can be hard on a reader. Issues that were seemingly resolved and fixed in the first book can be resurrected, while heroes readers have now become attached to can be done away with in a paragraph. I love that Shusterman opens up this fascinating future even more than he did in the first book, with an intimate look at the thoughts and feelings of the Thunderhead; an in-depth exploration of the world of Unsavories; and even travels to more locations around North America as well as a few far off islands. What I am not too crazy about is the relationship between Citra and Rowan. I have no issue with either of them, or even the idea of them together. I just do not quite believe the attraction or the chemistry for some reason. And the reason I am always wary of picking up a new series is because of the possibility of villains being overpowered and allowed to overcome ridiculous odds so they can continue to wreak havoc. In short, it is a good book, and a good sequel, but it left me sad and anxious for the third one.

Favorite Moment: When it is revealed that Texas is a charter region and the Thunderhead has decided to more or less let it do what it wants. In other charter regions, the Thunderhead has done little controlled social experiments that for the most part have been met with success. But with Texas, it has not been able to come up with a magic formula, and no real conclusion has been made. Not even an all seeing and all knowing being has any idea what to do with this great state.

Least Favorite Moment: The ending. *spoiler alert* How I felt at the end of Avengers: Infinity War is very close to how I felt at the end of this book.

Favorite Character: Greyson Tolliver is a great choice. But I also still love Scythe Faraday and his wise and gentle manner.

Recommended Reading: The Hunger Games trilogy would certainly work, as would Marie Lu's Legend series.    

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