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.
A Spring 2014 Indies Introduce New Voices selection
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.
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Beautifully written with fantastic characters and a terrifying page turning pace. I sneezed once while reading and was sure I was going to die.