Book Review: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

33555224Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the second novel of the chilling New York Times bestselling series from Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?


Okay. I’m back to normal. I think. Let’s do this review.

The Arc of a Scythe series is one of the most interesting YA dystopians that I’ve read for a hot minute, and Thunderhead keeps it going strong. The characters are strong, the setting is interesting, the Thunderhead is beginning to become a bit more morally ambiguous (yeah, I don’t think it’s wholly impartial anymore), and HOLY SHIT THAT ENDING.

The most interesting part of this book was, for me, the evolving role of the Thunderhead, both in the fictional society of the book and the story itself. In the first book, I was pleasantly surprised to not see technological advancement demonized. The Thunderhead did its job, did it well, and all the societal issues came from the Scythes, a group of humans who still self-governed. However, in Thunderhead, the Thunderhead’s existence and actions become much more interesting and nuanced. Neal Shusterman does a really good job of showing and balancing both the problems inherent in human-run societies and those that exist in a society where nobody has any power to shape their destiny.

This whole series also feels very relevant. As our lives get easier and easier and mental illness rates go up, there are a lot of parallels to be drawn between our society and the world Neal Shusterman has created. There is a lot of apathy in it and yet it is very not okay to be unhappy and little things like that just felt very real and pertinent to me.

The pacing was a little slow at times early in the book, which was kind of annoying. There were also a few plot points here and there where I felt like the first book was being rehashed a bit more that I would have liked. Certain story beats were revisited that I didn’t expect to see revisited and it felt a little been-there-done-that at the beginning. (I know this is vague, but I really want to keep this review non-spoiler.)

BUT THEN THAT ENDING! Everything was turned upside down and all these things just clicked together and I have no clue where this story is going next or what Neal Shusterman is going to do and I hate it and I love it. *chef kiss* This is how you end a book, folks.

Pacing issues aside, this was a very strong middle volume. No second-book slump here! Things are cranked up to eleven, everything goes to shit, questions are asked about was was presented as unquestionable, and I’m just going to go THAT ENDING again. I look forward to the next book.

Verdict: borrow it

Have you read Thunderhead? What did you think? What series do you find really avoid that middle-volume slump? Are there any books that feel a little to real to you at the moment?


One thought on “Book Review: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

  1. Pingback: July Wrap-Up | Death By A Thousand Paper Cuts

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