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Friday, March 14, 2014

Review: A DEATH- STRUCK YEAR by Makiia Lucier @HMHKids

Publication date: 3/4/14
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Source: HMH Books for Young Readers via Edelweiss
Hardcover, 288 pages
Rating: 5/5

For Cleo Berry, the people dying of the Spanish Influenza in cities like New York and Philadelphia may as well be in another country--that's how far away they feel from the safety of Portland, Oregon. And then cases start being reported in the Pacific Northwest. Schools, churches, and theaters shut down.

 The entire city is thrust into survival mode--and into a panic. Headstrong and foolish, seventeen-year-old Cleo is determined to ride out the pandemic in the comfort of her own home, rather than in her quarantined boarding school dorms. But when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she can't ignore the call. As Cleo struggles to navigate the world around her, she is surprised by how much she finds herself caring about near-strangers.

 Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student and war vet. Strangers who could be gone tomorrow.

 And as the bodies begin to pile up, Cleo can't help but wonder: when will her own luck run out?

Riveting and well-researched, A Death-Struck Year is based on the real-life pandemic considered the most devastating in recorded world history. Readers will be captured by the suspenseful storytelling and the lingering questions of: what would I do for a neighbor? At what risk to myself?

An afterword explains the Spanish flu phenomenon, placing it within the historical context of the early 20th century. Source notes are extensive and interesting.

I was initially intrigued by this book because of the fact that it takes place in 1918 –  right when Spanish Influenza was sweeping across the world, leaving thousands dead in every city.

Cleo Berry is an interesting main character. She is in no way a damsel in distress; she is actually quite the opposite. When her school is shut down due to the epidemic and her brother/guardian is on vacation, Cleo spins a tale too her school and family that allows her to stay home…alone. This is totally unheard of at this time. Cleo shows how difficult it is for a young girl to survive on her own, yet how much she can accomplish when unhindered.

Cleo discovers a passion deep inside herself to help the families and victims devastated by the epidemic. By signing up as a Red Cross volunteer, she is risking her life, health, and everything she holds dear. None of that serves as a deterrent to the deep pull inside of her. As a reader, you see her struggle with every decision and can’t help but let yourself wonder what you would do if you were in her position.

Cleo develops strong friendships with the other volunteers and one of the young medical students. Throughout a novel that has heartbreaking scenes, bittersweet friendships, and new love, we see a girl grow up in a matter of weeks. She learns that it is better to give of herself than shy away and that sometimes the greatest risks really are worth taking.

Despite several graphic scenes, this is one title I would definitely recommend getting as soon as it releases.

“What I would give right now, to feel nothing.” Makiia Lucier
Guest Review by: Victoria Lucas   

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