No spoilers in this rapid review of The Toll by Neal Shusterman. I loved Scythe and Thunderhead, the first two books in this series, and was eagerly anticipating the finale. But it wasn’t as good as the first two. I thought it was just okay and give it 3 stars.
The situation seemed pretty bleak at the end of Thunderhead. It was anyone’s guess as to who would be powerful enough to stand up to Goddard and his minions in their quest to, quite literally, take over the world. I wondered exactly what his evil plans were and whether the various groups—the Scythes, the Tonists, the Thunderhead, and humanity at large—could band together to attempt to take him down. Shusterman explores this and more in the finale.
The concept of this series is fresh and well-executed. Kudos to Shusterman for coming up with an original take on a dystopian society, one that made me excited about the genre all over again. The first two books drew me in quickly, and I grew very attached to Rowan, Citra, and Farraday.
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Part of my problem with The Toll, however, is there are so many points of view that I didn’t get to spend enough time—not nearly enough time—with my favorite characters. Also, the time jumps, especially the back and forth as we switched to different points of view, made me feel disconnected from the present, if that makes sense. And I grew tired of the social and political commentary sprinkled throughout.
I know, I know…This is a dystopian book. Of course it will contain commentary on society. But the first two books had far less, and I’m weary of this type of conversation in YA books in general. I need more escapism—like the Caraval series or The Folk of the Air series—right now. I get plenty of politics in real life.
One of my favorite aspects hinted at in Thunderhead and developed further in The Toll is the type of person the Thunderhead chose as its mouthpiece. I love unlikely heroes and admire the pure heart of this particular one. And Shusterman’s prose is on point as always. Even though this is by far the longest book in the series, the writing is never gratuitous. The length is needed to tell the story.
Yet all in all, this isn’t the finale I’d hoped for. Shusterman gives us answers to all of the major questions he posed, but the ending isn’t as epic as I’d expected. I’m disappointed and just a little ‘meh’ about the whole thing. But my feelings on The Toll don’t take away from my love for the first two books. They’ll always hold a special place in my heart.
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