August 11, 2021 7:36 AM EDT

In the distant, dystopian future depicted in Neal Shusterman’s Scythe, humanity is governed by a flawless computer system and death by natural causes has been eliminated. The problem of overpopulation has been addressed with the Scythdom, trained killers who deem which people should be culled from the world and oversee their deaths. Shusterman’s novel follows two teens, Citra and Rowan, who enter an apprenticeship to become Scythes and face growing, but forbidden, feelings for each other. Meanwhile, leaders of the Scythdom decide that only one of the teens will be chosen for the job—and whoever it is will be forced to cull the other. Scythe, published in 2016, won the 2017 Michael L. Printz Award, and marks the first entry of the best-selling Arc of the Scythe trilogy. By exploring themes of mortality, personal sacrifice and the heavy responsibilities that come with growing up, Scythe offers young readers a thrilling and thought-provoking story. —Peter Allen Clark

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