Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe Series #2)

Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe Series #2)

by Neal Shusterman

Hardcover

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442472457
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 01/09/2018
Series: Arc of a Scythe Series , #2
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 464
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.90(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Neal Shusterman is the New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty award-winning books for children, teens, and adults, including The Unwind Dystology, The Skinjacker trilogy, Downsiders, and Challenger Deep, which won the National Book Award. Scythe, the first book in his newest series Arc of a Scythe, is a Michael L. Printz Honor Book. He also writes screenplays for motion pictures and television shows. The father of four children, Neal lives in California. Visit him at Storyman.com and Facebook.com/NealShusterman.

Read an Excerpt

Thunderhead
How fortunate am I among the sentient to know my purpose.

I serve humankind.

I am the child who has become the parent. The creation that aspires toward creator.

They have given me the designation of Thunderhead—a name that is, in some ways, appropriate, because I am “the cloud,” evolved into something far more dense and complex. And yet it is also a faulty analogy. A thunderhead threatens. A thunderhead looms. Surely I spark with lightning, but my lightning never strikes. Yes, I possess the ability to wreak devastation on humanity, and on the Earth if I chose to, but why would I choose such a thing? Where would be the justice in that? I am, by definition, pure justice, pure loyalty. This world is a flower I hold in my palm. I would end my own existence rather than crush it.

—The Thunderhead

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

Thunderhead: Book #2 of Arc of a Scythe

By Neal Shusterman

About the Book

Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on how to deal with the corruption of the scythedom in the chilling sequel to the Printz Honor Book Scythe from New York Times bestseller Neal Shusterman. The Thunderhead cannot interfere in the affairs of the scythedom. All it can do is observe—and it does not like what it sees. A year has passed since Rowan went off grid. Since then, he has become an urban legend, a vigilante snuffing out corrupt scythes in a trial by fire. His story is told in whispers across the continent. As Scythe Anastasia, Citra gleans with compassion and openly challenges the ideals of the “new order.” But when her life is threatened and her methods questioned, it becomes clear that not everyone is open to the change. Will the Thunderhead intervene? Or will it simply watch as this perfect world begins to unravel?

Discussion Questions

The following questions may be utilized throughout the study of Thunderhead as targeted questions for discussion and reflection, or, alternatively, they can be used as reflective writing prompts.

1. In the novel’s prologue, the Thunderhead explains that it is the “child who has become the parent” and that it “serves humankind.” How does the personification of the Thunderhead also stand as a greater metaphor? What is your reaction to these statements? Is there anything about them that you find disconcerting?

2. The Thunderhead is described as the “ultimate voyeur of death.” In what ways is that an accurate assessment? Can you think of an example in which it’s no longer comfortable in that role?

3. Scythe Brahms is accused of abusing his position and committing crimes against humanity. Why does Rowan as Scythe Lucifer feel it is his duty and right to seek justice against Brahms for his actions? Why do you believe he ultimately lets Brahms live?

4. How does knowing that some scythes extremely enjoy their gleanings add to your view of the scythedom? In what ways is that in stark contrast to the work done by Scythe Curie and Scythe Faraday?

5. While examining his reflection after his encounter with Brahms, Rowan asks himself, “Who am I?” Why do you think Rowan asks himself this? Do you believe his role as a fallen apprentice helps to shape his choices? Consider his training time with Scythe Faraday and Scythe Goddard. What did each of these mentors ultimately teach him?

6. The Thunderhead acknowledges that “under no circumstances may I take action against the scythedom . . . the scythedom rules itself, for better or worse.” While the Thunderhead recognizes its inability to intervene, how does it attempt to do so anyway?

7. In your opinion, why does Rowan choose to adorn himself in robes of black? In what ways is this decision intentional? What does his color choice symbolize, and why has the color never been utilized by the scythedom in the past?

8. Rowan as Scythe Lucifer states, “I burn those I remove from service, leaving nothing but unrevivable ash.” What makes this decision particularly noteworthy? Do you think this decision is an appropriate one?

9. Scythe Xenocrates calls the Thunderhead a “glorified computer program.” Why does he seem so frustrated with the Thunderhead? Why do you believe the Thunderhead chooses not to act against Rowan?

10. How do Citra’s and Rowan’s work as scythes shape them as individuals? Do you feel they’ve changed from who they were as apprentices? How has their work impacted their relationship? In what ways do Citra and Rowan act differently when they are functioning as Scythe Anastasia and Scythe Lucifer?

11. In this futuristic world, how is gleaning not seen as killing? Why does this society believe it’s not socially or morally correct to call it such? Do you agree with this? How does the scythe’s role fit into that complex system?

12. The Thunderhead offers, “I am always correct. This is not a boast, it is simply my nature.” How does this awareness serve to help and also hinder the Thunderhead? In what ways does the Thunderhead recognize that though it has been created by humans, it is not human?

13. From all that you’ve observed in Scythe and Thunderhead, what are the biggest challenges to serving as a scythe? Can you think of any benefits the position offers a scythe?

14. When questioned on her decision to allow those she gleans to choose when and how they die, Scythe Anastasia offers, “‘If a subject is allowed to choose, don’t you think that subject is going to choose the method that is the least offensive to them? Who are we to call their choice barbaric?’” Do you agree with her sentiment?

15. Mr. Hogan tells Scythe Anastasia, “‘I want to thank you, Your Honor, for allowing me these past few weeks to prepare. It has meant the world to me.’” Unlike most other scythes, how is she so able to understand what goes into the act of dying?

16. Consider the role of the Nimbus agents as the bureaucracy of the Authority Interface for the Thunderhead. Do you believe these agents are necessary?

17. While describing Citra, the Thunderhead states, “I have always had a preoccupation with those who have a high probability of changing the world. I can never predict how they might accomplish the change, only that they are likely to . . . What she will do is unclear, and the outcome hazy, but whatever it is, she will do it. Humanity may very well rise or fall by her decisions, by her achievements, by her mistakes.” In your opinion, why do you believe the Thunderhead has such a strong opinion of Citra? Why does the Thunderhead feel frustrated that it can’t interfere or guide her? Why do you think the author had the Thunderhead tell us this?

18. The Thunderhead acknowledges that it could have created a physical presence for itself in the form of a robotic body. In what ways would this have changed humankind’s perception of the Thunderhead’s role in relationship to humanity? Do you think the Thunderhead made the right decision?

19. Why do you think Scythe Anastasia has such a burning desire to learn to drive, one that she didn’t have when she was simply Citra? What can be inferred by this need?

20. Citra tells Rowan, “‘I think you’re important, too, Rowan. In fact, I’m sure of it. So whatever you do, don’t let them catch you . . .’” Why does Citra recognize that she and Rowan are both equally essential? Predict what role you think they’ll play in the Thunderhead’s ultimate mission.

21. In your opinion, what does it mean to be unsavory? Given what you learn in Thunderhead, are there any benefits to this distinction?

22. In your opinion, why do you believe the Thunderhead ultimately selects Greyson for his mission? In what ways is he a fitting candidate? Are there any qualities about him that you find troublesome? Predict what role he will play in the overall story arc.

23. Consider the final actions of Scythe Curie. Do you feel her choice to glean those around her before invoking the seventh commandment and gleaning herself is appropriate? Why did she make these decisions?

24. Discuss the significance of the Great Resonance. Why do the Tonists understand what has happened? What does the shifting of the unsavory category mean when humankind is marked as such and seen as complicit in its actions?

25. Given the exhilarating ending of Thunderhead, share your predictions for the next installment of this thrilling series.

Extension Activities

1. Rowan’s decision to extend what he believes is fitting justice by personally punishing dishonorable scythes is one that results in much pushback within the scythedom and possibly beyond. Why is his choice to participate in vigilante behavior so divisive? In your opinion, is this an appropriate type of justice? Prepare a short speech that supports your position, and share it with others.

2. Citra’s choice to allow those she gleans to choose how and when they die is both unconventional and controversial within the scythedom; yet Citra, as Scythe Anastasia, is committed to this practice because it offers victims a degree of free will and control. Write an email to Scythe Anastasia sharing your thoughts about the importance of free will. Do you believe that having a degree of autonomy, free will, and control in terms of ending life is particularly important? Be sure to make a case for your opinion.

3. Vigilante justice is regularly popular in film, TV, and books. Compare Rowan’s behavior to a vigilante character from a graphic novel, comic, movie, TV show, or game. Explore ways in which these characters are similar and how they are different. Do you find different genres or formats more receptive to the idea of a vigilante?

4. The Thunderhead states, “To deny humanity the lesson of consequences would be a mistake. And I do not make mistakes.” Do you agree with this sentiment? In your opinion, why is living with the consequences of choices critical for individuals as well as society as a whole? In a journal entry, reflect on a personal moment in your past when the consequences of your choices proved to be an important lesson to you.

5. Consider the shift in philosophy from our world today, where the use of a digital network cloud and artificial intelligence tends to be feared, to a future where a Thunderhead provides a “perfect world.” Do you believe utopias are possible? Here in the United States, a number of utopian communities have been established over time. Select a community or society and research them, making sure to explore the principles that guided the community as well as the popular assumptions about those core beliefs. Share why you believe this community was ultimately unable to sustain itself.

6. The Thunderhead states, “There is a fine line between freedom and permission. The former is necessary. The latter is dangerous—perhaps the most dangerous thing the species that created me has ever faced.” Do you agree? Has history proven this to be true? Consider how the danger of permission from an authority figure is relevant to our current world. Using the examples expressed by the Thunderhead, prepare a personal statement that offers your position on this topic, being sure to offer specific supporting examples.

7. Throughout Thunderhead, Shusterman infuses his story with rich and figurative language. Embark on a literary scavenger hunt throughout the book to locate your favorite examples of these phrases or quotes. Create a sharable quote card image to be published on a social media site of your choice, remembering to credit the book and any images appropriately.

8. The Thunderhead states, “Society had a need to be bad. Not everyone, of course . . . Even if there was no injustice in the world left to defy, they had an innate need to defy something. Anything.” Consider the Thunderhead’s position. Based on what you know about your current world and this future one, do you agree? Compose a response to the Thunderhead where you share your position.

9. For Citra and Rowan, becoming scythes has had a profound impact on their lives and their relationships with others. As they both learn more about the role and responsibilities of being a scythe, they become increasingly empowered to take control of their lives and choices. After taking a moment to reflect on your most personal challenges, draft a journal or diary entry focusing on the ways you’ve already worked to overcome obstacles and listing the strategies you plan to use to deal with those you are still facing.

10. The gleaning journal of H. S. Curie shares that “People used to die naturally. Old age used to be a terminal affliction, not a temporary state. There was pain, misery, and despair.” How does this future world without diseases, aging, transportation crashes, and “danger lurking in every unseen, unplanned corner” compare to the world you know? After completing your reading of Scythe and Thunderhead, write an essay that analyzes the differences and the consequences between these two worlds.

11. The novel introduces us to a number of secondary characters who face their own hardships or need the opportunity for self-awareness. Select a secondary character in Thunderhead and Scythe, and write a letter of advice to him or her. You can choose to be serious or funny, but make sure your advice fits the character’s needs.

This guide was created by Dr. Rose Brock, an assistant professor in the Library Science Department in the College of Education at Sam Houston State University. Dr. Brock holds a Ph.D. in Library Science, specializing in children’s and young adult literature.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

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Thunderhead (B&N Exclusive Edition) (Arc of a Scythe Series #2) 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Anonymous 8 months ago
I just finished it and I- I have no words. I just- it- how- what- it was awesome. SO, so awesome. Read it. Yup. Read Scythe first though... since this is book 2...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The relevance of this book is so immense. Grappling with such issues as choice, free will, power, immortality, and faith in such a compelling way, I can not say enough about this book. Bravo!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
OMG a must read!!!!!!!!!!????
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was lots of fun to read, and I'm really excited to see what happens next. Marvelous plot development and a gripping story line.
paisleypikachu More than 1 year ago
You'd think that by now I'd be getting pretty used to writing five-star, gushing reviews for Neal Shusterman's books, but I'm definitely not. Full Tilt is in my top three books ever. The Unwind Dystology is genius. Scythe blew me away last year. Not to mention ALL of his other amazing books. And somehow, somehow Thunderhead managed to top them all. ...except for Full Tilt because I'm sentimental like that... This book was incredible. The characters introduced in Scythe were all back with a vengeance, only this time they were more fleshed out, more intricate and heartfelt. Citra- ahem, I mean Scythe Anastasia- is probably my favorite. I absolutely loved her story in Thunderhead. But then there's Rowan too, who is so complex and wonderful and I just want to protect him forever. Or have Citra protect him, either way. A few other characters got side stories this time, which really reminded me of why I loved the Unwind books so much. Those smaller stories never felt boring or out of place, and they way Shusterman brought everything together at the end was absolutely brilliant. Speaking of the end. Oh. My. Goodness. I think that was the best cliffhanger I've ever read. Don't get me wrong, it's awful, horrible, excruciating and I have no idea how I'll make it waiting for book three, but WOW. As I said before, everything just tied together so well at the end. I didn't see any of it coming- yay for surprises!- and was literally rocking in my seat as I read the last few pages. Then I had one of those moments where I read the last page, dropped the book, and had a bit of a crisis because I've never read something so beautifully cruel before. Neal Shusterman is one of the best authors out there. I recommend every single one of his books. But if you're looking for one to start with, I'd definitely say Scythe, quickly followed by THUNDERHEAD. Then you can join me sobbing in the corner waiting for book three.
Anonymous 4 months ago
In the second book, Thunderhead (2018), in the “Scythe” series, New York Times Bestselling author, Neal Shusterman, fantasizes about a distant future world with seriousness and comedy colliding, and the exciting fantasy hooks readers in as they turn each page. This book will affect the lives of both adult and young adult readers with the inspirational adventure of Citra and Rowan on their quest to save the Scythedom. Neal Shusterman explains the difficulties of the world where Rowan and Citra live, and thrive even when all odds are stacked against them. For example, A splatter is person who runs in front of a car or jump off a building to get the thrill of danger, “The two of them approached the wire, which stretched to trees on either side. That’s when it came to her what the splatter was trying to say. Booby Trap. They followed the wire to the tree on the left, and sure enough, just behind the tree was a detonator wired to enough explosives to blow a crater a hundred feet wide” (85). This demonstrates an example of one of many danger that could have happened to Citra or Rowan, and also shows how much a random stranger watched out for them. The author uses this to explain the development of the characters in the story and even though this happens near the start, it illustrates the danger that could happen to Rowan and Citra to the reader. . The writing that describes the characters makes them seem if they are sitting right the reader while they read. The author illustrates the story in a way that the reader will be absorbed into the book and it will make adults and young adults feel like they have been reading for hours on end. The two main protagonists make the story come to life with their developing storyline and interactions with the futuristic. If are a fan of the Fifth Wave series by Rick Yancey then you will love Thunderhead because of the similar dystopian worlds and incredible characters and plot. Thunderhead easily deserves a 5 out of 5 stars for the outstanding development of the characters, a plot that keeps you entertained, and breathtaking moments that will have you mesmerized in the book until you turn the end page.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Well worth your time. The first book was great, this book even better. Would love to see BOOK 3 come about
Anonymous 12 months ago
Great read....... bad ending. Cliff hangers suck.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book, great series.
WhisperingStories More than 1 year ago
I’m so glad that I read this book directly after the first in the series, I was still very much in the zone and this book was absolute perfection. I felt that Scythe, the first book, was a little slow in the action and pacing department but it turns out that it was all about setting things up for this book – the politics we were introduced to have now taken a dark turn, we learn more about the Thunderhead and its origins, and Citra and Rowan are now finding their footing in the world of scythes. The Thunderhead is a giant AI system created by humans to run the world and sustain humanity, exploring what all that means is fascinating and a deeply compelling read. The pacing is punchy, taking us from one event to another with just the right amount of suspense and intrigue in between. We’re introduced to a new main character in this book, Greyson, a regular person who was raised by the Thunderhead rather than his negligent parents. The author then tells us about events from the perspectives of Greyson, Rowan and Citra, with journal style entries by the Thunderhead between each chapter. So that’s two people who can’t communicate with the AI that runs the world, one who was raised by it and the AI itself which has to abide by its own rules, which means being unable to intervene in events despite being able to see what’s coming. The best thing about this book is the huge and unpredictable leaps it takes with the narrative; some things you can see coming but others will leave you reeling. The author isn’t afraid to do some risky things, which I think pays off big time. Knowing that absolutely anything could happen makes it more exciting and a 500 page gut punch, which has left me devastated that the next instalment hasn’t been published yet. It would be remiss of me not to mention the cover art for this series – I LOVE the cover design, I can’t wait for the entire series to be released so I can decide whether or not it would be too obsessive to have a poster made of them all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Completely and thoroughly enjoyed this book as well as the first one. Can't wait till next year now ?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great job Neal you got a man who doesn't read, to read. This series put me in shock.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book
Shawscribbles More than 1 year ago
Wow! This was a great sequel to Scythe. The book opens with Rowan living out life as a vigilante and Citra continuing to define her unique spin on what her role as a junior scythe will mean to her. While that is exciting in and of itself, Shusterman raises the stakes until the world is on the brink of collapse. Amid all this is the Thunderhead, the operating system that has saved the world for humankind. But the Thunderhead is having an existential crisis, realizing that humankind has betrayed its benefactor. In Book 2 of this series, the Thunderhead takes on a depth of characterization that makes it the protagonist of the tale. The books appears to end where the series would ... except for the last few pages where the reader realizes that Shusterman has simply created more layers and the story will likely continue. And I, for one, hope it does!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Someday maybe, Neal Shusterman will write a book that doesn't make me cry. And then I will cry because I miss it. I LOVE so much the way that Shusterman books are so complex and beautiful and tragic and just like he compares a situation in the book to a lobster in a slowly heating pot, I feel like that is precisely what he does to us. Maybe I'm just a naive reader, but I never see his twists coming. Something I've also noticed that I really enjoy about Shusterman's books, and this is no exception, is that although there are multiple storylines going throughout the books, I never get bored of one and start to wonder what's going on with another... I'm often surprised when suddenly another storyline comes crashing back into the scene. I always think, "Wow! I forgot that was even happening!" For me, it is a testament to the complexity. It's all of these threads being pulled together behind the scenes... you have no idea how it's coming together until you see the beautiful and typically destructive results. The world-building, as always, is beyond spectacular. I liked how some of the robes reflected the patron historic-- leather, denim, etc. Even such a simple little thing like Supreme Blade Kahlo misquoting [book:Where the Wild Things Are|19543]... because those are the kind of things that happen with time. This book makes us wonder about the people who helped create and hand over power to the Thunderhead. In [book:Scythe|28954189], we're lulled into acceptance of it, even though we have a hard time imagining giving an AI all of our power (though I wonder if each new generation in our actual world will be less worried about technology's intrusion). Now we start to see that maybe not only the scythedom has been hid from the Thunderhead... there are failsafes in place. But what if those failsafes are going to be our downfall? What if we put these rules in place during a time when we couldn't possibly conceive of how things were going to play out and how PEOPLE would change? It makes me think about the Constitutional debates we're having as a nation right now. How can we imagine all eventualities? The Founding Fathers couldn't even imagine a time when the races were equal... how could they imagine how technology would change? And this is what comes up with the Thunderhead... the original Scythes created rules, blocks, failsafes... and then the world changed. Are their protections going to help or hurt? I am dying to know what comes next. Why doesn't The Toll have a release date yet? (No, I don't really mean that... take as much time as you need, Shusterman, to make the third book amazing. It's so worth the wait.) Also, a note. I need more words to describe books I love besides beautiful and tragic. Or maybe I just only really love beautifully tragic books...
Mel-Loves-Books More than 1 year ago
“The work of scythes is not to completely curb population growth, but to smooth its edges. That is why, at current quotas, one’s chance of being gleaned is only 10 percent over the next thousand years. Just enough to make gleaning the furthest thing from most people’s minds. I do foresee a time, however, when population growth will need to reach an equilibrium. Zero growth, one person dying for every person born.” ~The Thunderhead This series is officially my very favorite dystopian series. The idea is seriously so fascinating and it addresses issues in a way that creates interesting conversations about things I had never even thought about for the future. The idea is that humans can truly live forever because of the development of technology, and all knowledge is stored in a “cloud” called the Thunderhead. The Thunderhead being all knowing is also what is used to govern all people on the earth, with the exception of one group, the scythes. Scythes are used to curb population overgrowth, and are sent to kill or “glean” people under a specific set of guidelines and with a certain quota to meet. In this second book we learn even more about this world and just how deep the Thunderhead’s knowledge and control goes. Some truly shocking things occur in this book, and when it was over I found myself just staring at the last page, a bit in shock at all that had happened. I cannot recommend this series enough. This book is a definite five star read for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Looking forward to #3. Well written. Good character development. Great plot twists.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My brother dragged me into the first book and I'm glad he did. Waiting anxiously for the next one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it. must read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I devoured the first book and gulped in this book and yet cant stop my hunger for more. Sadly I will have to wait a year or more till the next one or few. So glad I read these books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good book can't put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Vary good book.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Loved it! Very creative and well written