Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

“An arrogant head of state gives permission to all nature of hate as long as it feeds his ambition. And the unfortunate truth is, people devour it. Society gorges itself, and rots. Permission is the bloated corpse of freedom.”

I read Scythe about a month ago, and since then I have lost some memories of it. I couldn’t find Thunderhead at the library, and the ordering system was down, so I had to painfully wait until the book could somehow show up. And it did. However, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought. Scythe was an amazing dystopian novel, and unfortunately, this sequel couldn’t quite meet the same standards.

The concept of the Thunderhead is interesting to read about and I do think it is written into the plot well. However, I felt it lacked building. I say this with many fantasy, sci-fi, and dystopian books because these genres need building in order for us readers to fully understand the world and to enjoy the book. I didn’t feel like the concept of the Thunderhead was explained fully. It could be that it’s been almost a month since I’ve read Scythe, but in that book the author mainly focused on the concept of scythes and the scythedom. With this book, Schusterman decided to focus on the Thunderhead, which did play somewhat of a role in Scythe, but it wasn’t the main focus. I expected there to be more building and explaining of the Thunderhead in this book, but I didn’t get that. Even after reading the book, I still don’t fully get what exactly the Thunderhead is, but hopefully, the next book will clarify my understanding.

Another issue I had this book was simply the pacing. At some parts, I found it to be extremely slow when it really shouldn’t have been. I think that this is the reason why it took me longer than expected to finish this book. I just felt like I was trudging through several scenes because it was going so slowly, and I wished that it could’ve moved quicker. I enjoy YA fantasy, dystopian, etc., because it is fast-paced and engaging. I didn’t find that this book was at a pace I wanted it to be at, and I found myself to sometimes skim through several parts.

The characters in this book lacked actual character for me. Mostly the scythes had this problem, and I felt them to be just boring and flat. The dialogue they share seems so robotic, and I don’t think that the author intended to do this. They also didn’t have interesting personalities; they just had a limited set of characteristics and that’s about it. I don’t think that I had this problem with Scythe, but as Citra (or Anatasia) continued to grow in this book, I found her more and more boring to read about. The moments that are supposed to be life-changing for her really didn’t seem that exciting to me, and her character that she had simply ruined the scene. My favorite character in this series is Rowan, and I wished he had more scenes in this book. He plays a huge role in the development of the Scythedom and the changed that the Scythedom faces, but he isn’t exactly present for some important parts of the story. I’m hoping that he will get more scenes and screen time in the next book. Greyson was okay, I understand that a character like him needed to be there. He wasn’t exactly the most interesting character, but I do understand why he needed to be in the story.

Besides all these problems I had, I did enjoy some parts of the book. The concept of scythes and gleaning intrigued me once I started Scythe, and I enjoyed the continuation of the growth of the Scythedom in this book. I also do enjoy the concept of the Thunderhead, and even though I did have problems with it, it was still interesting to read about. The entire world that this book is set in is crafted well; I think it’s interesting how it is practically a “utopia”. Most dystopian books take place in war-torn, and disastrous places but it is interesting how this book uses a utopia as the setting instead.

I don’t exactly hate this book, but I can’t say I really liked it either. I will still anticipate the next book (and I think the final?) in this series. If you are interested in a different and unique dystopian novel, this series is a good choice. Though my experience may not have been the best, others might think differently so you should definitely consider picking this book up if you haven’t.

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