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BOOK REVIEW: The Toll by Neal Shusterman

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Artwork by Sandi Shao, staff artist

Two teens must learn the “art of killing” in Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy. On November 4, 2019, Shusterman released The Toll, the final book in a chilling series.

In the two former, Shusterman paints a utopia  with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now, people known as Scythes (an appointed job) choose who lives and dies to control the population. Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice a scythe (a role that neither wants). These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own. The sequel digs into their lives a year after their training, and at this time Goddard (a Scythe) has taken over and corruption and evil ensue.

In this highly anticipated finale to the New York Times bestselling trilogy, dictators, prophets, and tensions rise. In a world that’s conquered death, will humanity finally be torn asunder by the immortal beings it created? Will The Toll answer these questions?

Citra and Rowan have disappeared. Endura, the country that held the entire Head Assembly of the Scythedom, is gone--and now Goddard is the supreme leader. With this dictatorship and censorship, the people are seen rebelling and trying to fight back. But will they succeed?

While reading this book, I found myself not wanting to put it down. While the book was over 600 pages, I finished it in two days. The constant action and excitement in each page, which was also filled with mystery and marvel, made it my favorite series by far.

Shusterman is a genius with how he weaves each of the characters, old and new, and having their paths flirt with each other until they finally intertwine. There are many moving parts to the conclusion of this series that it feels like the reader is watching a puzzle being completed, with each piece slowing and finding its home until the final result is realized. Everything is so masterfully done that one can’t help but praise the writing and how the story is told. 

While most readers were satisfied by the ending, some were left feeling as if the story was incomplete. It left them with more questions than answers. However, that is the brilliant thing about Shusterman: his ambiguity; he leaves you, the reader, choosing what to believe or think. Nonetheless, The Toll was the best in the trilogy by far. It combined all aspects that readers loved in the first two, remarkable storytelling, plot twists, and sense of urgency and excitement. While some believe it was an unsatisfying ending, The Toll is a great finish to The Arc of a Scythe trilogy.

Shusterman created a remarkable world with Scythe that he masterfully tied up with The Toll, an ending that all of the readers will find satisfying.


Katie D’Angelo is a 17-year-old, high school junior, from Pelham, New York. She enjoys writing in her free time and runs her school's Creative Writing Club. She gets a lot of her inspiration from Greek mythology, which has been an interest of hers since elementary school. Katie currently has been published in many of her town’s newspapers and her school's literary magazine. Katie also enjoys playing dungeons and dragons and loves to read fantasy novels.

Sandi is a 15-year-old from Beijing, China who now lives in New York (Jericho). She has a passion for fashion and art, dances and adores kdramas and anime with all her heart. She is inspired by fashion photography, magazines like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, and places with unique culture such as Brooklyn. Sandi hopes to someday explore the world and bring an end to discrimination against turtles.

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