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Scythe by Neal Shusterman: A Review

Scythe (Barnes & Noble YA Book Club Edition) (Arc of a Scythe ...

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“Everyone is guilty of something, and everyone still harbors a memory of childhood innocence, no matter how many layers of life wrap around it. Humanity is innocent; humanity is guilty, and both states are undeniably true.”

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

I haven’t lost hope in YA! It’s official.

I have been apprehensive for the last couple years when it came to YA. All the books seemed to blend together. So many of them seemed to be strange spin-offs of the more populars novels that were written years ago. Lately, I think I have found some novels that were different than others.

During qurantine, I’ve read more than I have in quite a while. I have been busy with working remotely at home, family, and other personal endeavors. Nonetheless, I made it a goal to read more in 2020, and I have read eight novels so far. It’s not much, considering I can read a novel in 3 days or less if I am that invested. Still, it is more than I have for some time. However, Scythe by Neal Shusterman was one of those books that I was very invested in.

Let me tell you a bit about this novel. Here were are in MidMerica, a couple hundred years or so in the future. Humans have conquered death with the help of technological advances. The “cloud,” a term we recognize today as the storage of computed data, has become the “Thunderhead,” the sole governor of humankind on earth. However, although humanity has become immortal, population must be controlled. Therefore, Scythes have the task of “gleaning” individuals, which is essentially killing, in order to maintain this balance. The main characters, Citra and Rowan, are chosen by a Scythe as apprentices of the Scythedom, but only one of them would be chosen to be Scythe after their training is done.

What was most appealing about this book was the style of writing. I think that writing this novel in third person was beneficial. It kept the novel more focused on the events, more than simply the characters themselves. I liked that the Shusterman switched from various points of view. At times we were focusing on Citra, Rowan, a person who was to be gleaned, or other characters as well. I enjoyed the points of view of those who were to be gleaned very much, since it was interesting how the author portrays how an individual would react to a death that they could not prepare for, but must succumb to at any split second.

I also liked the entries of different Scythes between chapters. In the novel, Scythes are required to make daily entries in a journal. Those entries were almost like little nuggets of philosophy, and they made me think quite a bit. It was strange that in their world, where no one ever died of natural causes and all knowledge was readily available in the Thunderhead, the only bit of humanity that remained could be found in the Scythes– who had to kill people. There are not many other comparable endeavors that are as inhumane as that. However, humanity finds itself in that endeavor in this novel, which was very interesting.

Additionally, I appreciated that this novel did not focus on romance. It felt it was quite a small factor in the book, which was refreshing. I think that many YA novelists feel as if when they write, even if their story isn’t technically romance by genre, they must put some sort of love conflict in the plot because perhaps some younger readers won’t be interested without it. In this novel, although romance contributed in the story, it was very minute and tasteful contribution. If it was focused on further it would have been a distraction.

Scythe was more on the darker side, which had it’s own appeal. Some events in the book were a bit disturbing and gruesome, but it was not provocative. I felt that the characters were very relatable, in spite of what they witnessed and did in the book. This novel would be best fit for readers who like edge, but also enjoy the pensivity that they can acquire from reading thought provoking literature. I would not recommend this book to teens younger than fifteen because of the theme and events that took place. However, I can only imagine how interesting discussing this book with teens would be. In the novel, people had become content with the complacency of their immortality, and did not desire much apart from it. It would be great to hear from young minds about if and how perhaps society is affected by such an attitude today, even as mortals.

As you could probably tell, I really enjoyed this novel. I could write about it endlessly, but I don’t think that’s best. I feel positive that many of you would love this book as much as I did. Scythe is a ten in my book ; ) Thank you for reading this review! I will get on to reading the next one in the series, “Thunderhead.” I hope everyone stays safe and healthy. Until next time!

Are Books Just an Asthetic?

My Favorite YA Books on We Heart It

For me, this is not much of a question. I know that other readers and book lovers would agree that books are more than just asthetically pleasing. But, as I am scroll on social media platforms and the internet, I find that books are often used for this effect. Personally, I find books immensely enjoyable to look at and be around. Books themselves, no matter the age or genre, bring a sort of warmth and soulfullness to a space or image that cannot be replaced by another object. However, using books only for this reason– as some sort of prop– completly defeats the purpose of having books at all. Some people will place books in places in their room, just for the pleasant sight of them, but never pick them up to read them at all.

What a waste this is!

Books are not meant to just sit on bookcases and be gazed at from a distance. They are meant to be taken from shelves, be felt with curious hands which flip through their pages. Books are here to fill our minds with imagination and knowledge, and for us to pass what we learn for generations to come.

I have seen people who do this sort of thing, who keep books only for the view. Perhaps I am just overthinking it, but as a avid reader…it’s almost a little offensive. What are your views on the subject? Let me know in the comments! Have a great day everyone 🙂

5/8/20

New World, New Destinations: A Poem

Why 'getting lost in a book' is so good for you, according to science

the horizon looked bleak

even from the start of this period

but she looked at the sky and breathed

and thought of the all places she would go

in this new world where nothing at all is sure

she knew and held to her few and only certainties

and so she went to the shelf and then dusted off a tome

and in her mind she went to places she could only dream of

these books she kept close as she endured life in the new world

for she was now beautifully lost and for once did not feel quite so alone

4/29/20

Under the Shade of Banyan Tree- A Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Windows

Clean, plain, open, closed, bright,
light, shaded, paned, shuttered, blinded, boarded,
rusty, dirty, smoky windows.
broken, shattered, run down windows
Windows that protect and hide,
a mirror to the world outside
and sometimes to the world within,
unraveling layer by layer, revealing
a glance into a soul,
a tool for introspection and scrutiny,
secrets and smokescreens,
evasions, denials, half-truths
Windows, they tell it all.

“Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree” by Simi K. Rao

I felt as if after reading Simi K. Roa’s, Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree, I was able to take a glance into her soul. This eloquent morsel was released in August of last year and is less than 150 pages in length. Rao was born in India, but she has been living in the United States for several years now. She has also published a few other works within the last few years, such as Inconvenient Relations and the Accidental Wife. Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree was the first work of hers that I have read, but it is definitely now a favorite that I highly recommend.

What attracted me first was the title. I had never heard of a Banyan tree, so I searched it.

Originally, they are from the writer’s home country, where underneath the tree is often a center of activity in many of their communities. Magnificently, Banyans can grow up to be 80 feet tall, cover about 14,500 square feet of space, and live to be over two and a half centuries of age. Often, the tree symbolizes fertility, life, and even resurrection. Hindu texts dating back over 2,500 years reference the Banyan tree as a “world tree,” it’s roots reaching the heaves and delivering blessings to earth.

Significantly, the concept of the vastness of this tree, with it’s sturdy roots consuming all in its path, is more than appropriate metaphor in my opinion. It would be difficult to use one word to encumber all that is contained in Rao’s, Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree. However, if I did, I would choose a word that a Banyan tree itself represents. Life.

Life penned by Simi Rao, as I read, had been written through the many lenses that she wore in her time. A Mother. A Physician. An Innocent Child. A Mischievous Teen. A Lover. An Immigrant. A Dreamer. Every poem and short story is coated with her observations of human nature, her experiences a cross-cultured woman, her internal struggles, her perceptions of love, and her emancipation from the darkness that can tend to follow us in life.

The poems were written in a variety of different styles, which I find is important in books such as these. It is more engaging when authors change the rhythm, rhyme patterns (or not rhyme at all), and the topics as well. She accomplished that skillfully, and she also included some excepts from her other books and a few short stories. The poem “Windows” was my favorite poem style wise, and I thought it was very deep. Rao gave us a peek through her window. Through it, the inner workings of her humanity was laid bare, which made almost everything she wrote easy to relate to. I felt as if I could almost feel her soul in some of the poems. Her affection for others and nature was plain to me. Her love of her culture was also evident. In the vivid short story “Mr. Tim“, a little girl befriends a squirrel in a tree. At the end, I almost shed tears just as the character did. The poem “Phobia” cleverly explained how tragic it is that fear can imprison us, even when freeing ourselves from it’s control is more possible than it seems. Simi shared her experiences as a physician with writing of a cancer patient, an addict, and an elderly woman with dementia. And of course, the love stories “Crush” and “A Cup of Chai” were heartwarming.

All that is included in Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree is touching in it own right. As Simi describes it, we must all ride “the carnival of life,” and it is bumpy ride. With all the unrest occurring in the world at present, the burden of simply existing is not foreign to anyone. Nonetheless, Roa reassures in this composition that there is light awaiting after the dark, somewhere a hand is always out-stretched, the beauty of love flows in unlikely places, and that rain will always fall to spread the roots of the Banyan tree.

Rupi Kaur’s Poetry: A Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Poetry has always been a style of writing that I loved. I write a bit, but I have always loved reading poetry. To me, it’s a very freeing and vulnerable sort of writing. Poets reveal pieces of their hearts, convey their values and ideas, and express concepts in a often illustrative and touching way.

I have had the pleasure to read Rupi Kaur’s books, “Milk and Honey” and “The Sun and Her Flowers.” Usually, the poetry that I read is much different than Rupi’s. At times, when a poet touches a deeper concept, they don’t write about it directly. They may use figurative language to describe it and leave the reader to decide what it means. Although this style has its charm, it can lead the reader to be a little frustrated if they are not able to comprehend the meaning the poet is trying to express. However, this is not the case with Rupi.

In Kaur’s poetry, she evocatively and vulnerably describes the thoughts and feelings that come with loss, love, abuse, femininity, family, beauty, and identity. She does not hold anything back in her poems, and writes them in a language that is accessible to anyone.

In “Milk and Honey,” she cleverly sections her book into 4 portions: The Hurting, The Loving, The Breaking, and The Healing. In the first portion, she candidly goes into her experiences and feelings of a past abuse, confusion with her identity, objectification, and neglect. In “The Loving“, it dives in with very passionate and colorful poems expressing her feelings of love, and “The Breaking” being the intense pain and desperation that comes with the loss of that love. The last portion, “The Healing,” takes a positive and empowering turn with writings about moving forward after the abuse and failed relationships. I really was found her rawness and authenticity, and how she was able to show how emotions or thoughts aren’t always easy fluid. Sometimes her poems seemed like they were taking a positive turn, but then sometimes it would drop down again to the negative. It would go back and forth at times, like an internal struggle. Her writing style seemed very psychological in that way, and I admired that.

Similarly, in “The Sun and Her Flowers,” she divides this book into five chapters: “Wilting“- which deals with grief, “Falling“- which deals with self-abandonment, “Rooting“- which goes into family struggles and honoring one’s roots, “Rising”– which dives into a new love, and “Blooming“, like “The Healing,” ends the book nicely with positive and empowering messages. I enjoyed this one a little bit more than the first, because I found many of the poems very relatable. However, I found the feminist and immigrant themes very pivotal, especially with the various issues that seem to be dividing the United States currently. Rooting was educational, and I appreciated reading about a her, a child of immigrants, pride and awe of her parents sacrifices that gave her and her siblings the opportunities and freedoms no one in any of their families generations had, specifically women. I really enjoyed reading Rising also, because I was glad seeing her move on to a new love, as scary as that can be. I found myself saying “HA!” at one of the poems where she saw her old boyfriend in the coffee shop and didn’t have a single care. That was definitely a highlight.

I would recommend these books to anyone of a mature mind, especially girls and women. Many of the poems are empowering, and even if this book is taken apart and some specific poems are selected, I think even a young child might appreciate it. However, I believe that both the books in whole are definitely better suited for who are of an reasonable age (16+ maybe), because some of the poems might be disturbing or confusing to a child.

Overall, it was truly a great read, and I am considering buying them so I can read it over and over again. Have you read “Milk and Honey” or “The Sun and Her Flowers”? Tell me what you thought of it!

Below are some of my favorite poems from Rupi, mostly from The Sun and Her Flowers.

8/8/19