Today we are excited to be one of today’s stops for Makiia Lucier’s A Death-Struck Year. The young adult historical fiction novel focuses on a young girl in Portland, Oregon during the Spanish Influenza in 1918. The book was released yesterday, March 4,2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers.
About the Book
Title: A Death-Struck Year
Author: Makiia Lucier
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pub. Date: March 4, 2014
A deadly pandemic, a budding romance, and the heartache of loss make for a stunning coming-of-age teen debut about the struggle to survive during the 1918 flu.
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?
Last year I said I wasn’t a fan of historical fiction. It was more so that I just didn’t happen to pick up many HF books. Since then, I’ve made it a point to do so, and it is one reason I was interested in this book.
The book focuses on a real event – the year is 1918 in Portland, Oregon and the event is the Spanish Influenza. (If you are a fan of Twilight, this is the event that killed Edward’s family and almost him). Our protagonist is a seventeen year old girl, and we get to experience this historical event through her eyes.
Cleo is a really amazing character. She sounded so much like a contemporary teenager in her fears and desires that it was easy to relate. She starts out the book feeling uneasy about what she wants to do with her life – who she is and what her purpose is. However, when times get tough Cleo shows great backbone and tenacity. She is a great role model for young teens, even today.
Cleo is a young girl who lives with her brother and sister-in-law. Her parents died when she was younger, so she lives with her brother who is a well-off architecht. She is able to attend a girl’s school and live at home, but must move into the dorms temporarily when Jack (her brother and guardian) and Lucy take a anniversary/business trip to San Franscico.
Cleo is tested — she is left alone when the flu hits Portland and has the chance to stay quarantined in her boarding school. She could stay safe, and yet she decides to go back to her brother’s house. She finds out the Red Cross needs volunteers and decides to borrow her brother’s vehicle and use her time to help people. To be honest, I don’t think I would have done what she did — it took real bravery to walk into the homes of strangers, who were sick and possibly dead, to help. It was also interesting to see these young adults helping people when there were adults abandoning their own families.
“There. You see? You think you’re ordinary, but you’re the only one who does.”
The book had this ethereal quality to it — I was able to see the story almost from an omnipresent position, as if I were Ebenezer Scrooge watching events of the past flash before my eyes. I was able to stand next to Cleo as she faced the events happening around her.
The romance of the book was sweet and chaste – as it should be. It was by no means the forefront of the story, but it was a nice piece of the tale.
One interesting aspect of the book was seeing just for a moment how a girl was treated during this time period. Over and over, people had such a hard time dealing with an almost eighteen year old girl being on her own. In today’s society, we are almost expected to become independent at this time. But then, it was simply not done. Her wealth and way of life sheltered her, which is why it was so fun to see her become an independent adult. One scene in particular was with the washing machine. It was quite hilarious.
“You think you’re smarter than me.” I kept my voice low and threatening. “And maybe that’s true. But if I wanted, I could take you apart. Piece by piece. I could use you for firewood. What do you say about that, huh? What do you say?”
The washing machine said nothing.
Obviously, even in the midst of this terrible tragedy, there were lighter moments. The writing was well done – we could both be interested in the overall magnitude of the event and the micro events taking place within Cleo’s story.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was different than anything I’ve read in quite sometime and actually got me more curious in an event that I could research and learn more about. I think young girls will get a lot of out this book and is one I recommend for even a younger (middle school age) teenager. It obviously does deal with death, but I think the message is important and done in a way that will benefit the reader.
About the Author
Makiia Lucier grew up on the Pacific island of Guam. She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon and a master’s in library studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She’s had plenty of jobs, mostly in libraries, and currently lives in the small college town of Moscow, Idaho.
Connect with Makiia
There is a tour-wide giveaway for a SIGNED COPY of A DEATH-STRUCK YEAR to one winner – US ONLY. Giveaway ends on March 17th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific. Be sure to follow the directions on the Rafflecopter as all entries will be verified.
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