Young adult author Neal Shusterman has been imagining captivating dystopian worlds in his books for decades, and his fiction keeps getting better. Shusterman, 62, is best known for his dystopian science fiction series, set in unimaginable futures of human creation.
His most recent published series, “Arc of a Scythe,” is set in a utopian future where humans have conquered natural death. In order to maintain the population size, certain individuals are trained as “scythes,” to cull the population by killing at random. The story follows two teens chosen as scythes’ apprentices, which neither expected nor wants. The series is dark and riveting, while exploring ethical questions about whether it is right to glean a few in order to preserve a utopian way of life for all, and if it is possible to participate in this system in a moral way. The final book in the series, “The Toll,” hits shelves in November 2019.
Another captivating story can be found in “Dry,” a novel co-written by Schusterman and his son, Jarrod. This book imagines a time in Southern California where the water has been rationed, and suddenly dries up. It follows the experience of a teen living through the nightmare, where water becomes such a precious commodity that people will do anything to get it.
Shusterman’s passion for writing began in high school, when he was challenged by a teacher to write monthly stories for extra credit.
“I desperately needed extra credit in her class,” he said on his website. “By the end of ninth grade, that’s when I really began to feel like a writer. That’s when writing emerged above all my other interests.”
Shusterman moved to Mexico City with his family for his final two years of high school, which he said gave him a fresh perspective on the world. In addition to studying writing in college at the University of California-Irvine, he was also a member of the school’s swim team.
Shusterman has a variety of writing credits beyond books: he has written for television, film, and stage, as well as directing films. His 2015 novel “Challenger Deep” was a National Book Award winner. His books have been recognized for excellence by the American Library Association, School Library Journal, New York Public Library, and numerous other organizations.