A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier
Expected Publication: 4 March 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 288 (hardcover)
Genre/s: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher for review
In the grip of the deadly 1918 flu pandemic, not even the strong survive.
The Spanish influenza is devastating the East Coast—but Cleo Berry knows it is a world away from the safety of her home in Portland, Oregon. Then the flu moves into the Pacific Northwest. Schools, churches, and theaters are shut down. The entire city is thrust into survival mode—and into a panic.
Seventeen-year-old Cleo is told to stay put in her quarantined boarding school, but when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she cannot ignore the call for help. In the grueling days that follow her headstrong decision, she risks everything for near-strangers. Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student. Strangers who could be gone tomorrow. And as the bodies pile up, Cleo can't help but wonder: when will her own luck run out?
Whenever I see a book with some kind of virus, I'm immediately drawn to it. When it's a fictionalised version of a real event like Spanish influenza, I'm compelled to read it because it also contains the historical element that I've always loved. Therefore, reading A Death-Struck Year was always a given.
A Death-Struck Year begins with Cleo, a teenager who has an overwhelming need to pitch in with the effort to provide medical aid to the flu victims, despite the fact that her family and friends cannot understand why she would put herself at risk. Lucier's use of language, both in the storytelling and the dialogue fits the period perfectly and makes the story feel more realistic.
Cleo is an easy character to like - shes caring yet strong and has a definite sense of empathy for both people that she knows and strangers. Her own background and family life make her strength and determination feel even more pronounced.
Although the synopsis hints at a romance, it's more of a meeting of kindred spirits than a world-shattering love story, and at times it feels like an afterthought that was thrown in to attract a certain audience rather than add to the plot of the story.
A Death-Struck Year is a fast read, with an admirable main character, strong use of language to portray the setting but slightly lacking in the level of impact and intensity I was hoping for.