A Death-Struck Year

Makiia Lucier. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-544-16450-5
Lucier strikes an appropriately sobering tone in her debut novel, about the 1918 Spanish influenza outbreak. Seventeen-year-old orphan Cleo Berry describes the gruesome day-to-day realities in Portland, Ore., as disease ravages her community, brought by contagious visiting soldiers. Resourceful and empathetic, Cleo joins the Red Cross volunteers, distributing informational pamphlets and masks, and seeing to "unattended cases," saving three lives on her first mission. With her brother and his pregnant wife stuck in San Francisco, Cleo befriends fellow volunteers at the transformed Public Auditorium, learns self-reliance, and assists in horrifying medical procedures, while discovering the ambition that aids in her will to survive. Lucier gracefully provides historical verisimilitude with references to bob haircuts, the spread of knowledge about birth control, wartime food shortages and inflation, and the traumatizing effects of the draft. Highly sympathetic characters, a solid sense of place, and the transformation of a city under siege by an invisible assailant result in a powerful and disturbing reading experience. Ages 12–up. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary & Media. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/03/2014
Release date: 03/04/2014
Genre: Children's
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-544-30670-7
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-544-54118-4
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