This review is spoiler-free!
The very first thing I want to say before I get to this review is that I read this as an ebook because my library had it on their digital shelves, and I enjoyed this book so much that I need it in a physical form. If you love historical fiction and enjoyed books formatted like Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepytes (one of my favorite historical novels ever), then you’ll really enjoy A Death-Struck Year. It really is interesting and a pretty quick read, it sucks you in and doesn’t let you go.
Now, onto my review, which will probably contain more of me talking about how much I liked it, but it is what it is. I definitely need this book on bookshelves at some point, though.
A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Release Date: Published March 4th 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Format: ebook, 288 pages
Rating: 5/5 Crabapples
Find it here: Goodreads || Book Depository
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?
In this story, you follow a girl named Cleo Berry, 17-years-old, who lives in Portland in 1918, just as the Spanish Influenza is making its historic rounds. If you don’t know anything about the Spanish Influenza, I highly suggest NOT reading up on it until after you’d finished the book. It makes it a lot more entrapping to not know how things are going to go, and who you will and won’t lose along the way based on the statistics we have now. Once you’ve finished, Wiki it out! I definitely did.
The story you follow through Cleo’s eyes is one of fear and turmoil as the disease ravages the world around her, and Cleo is stuck in the middle of it. I won’t go as far as to tell you how she is or where she’s experiencing this all from, since that could be spoilery, but I will say that her position in it, as working for the Red Cross (stated in the blurb, though I won’t go into detail beyond that), was not something I myself would have been able to do. Especially not in a town where I had grown up with the people being struck by the disease. At least, I don’t think I would have. Who knows what someone’s capable of until disaster strikes, right?
My biggest concern with this book was the ending, simply because I wanted to know more about what had happened, but otherwise I think that this book was great from start to finish. There was some drama and excitement, but nothing too extreme for a book about a disease that hit America in the early 20th century. In fact, if you’re not interested in the experience, you might even find this book a little bit boring. I didn’t, but seeing things through the eyes of a character in the most direct way possible is my favorite kind of historical fiction novel.
All in all, this book was fantastic. It was interesting (to me), informative, capturing. The prose was easy to read and Cleo as a character didn’t drive me up the wall despite being 17. It didn’t push any boundaries and it had something happening in each chapter instead of sticking you in a slump where nothing happened (which, during an endemic, is pretty unlikely anyway), and it didn’t get boring for a single moment. If you like historical fiction, I highly suggest giving this one a go, you may really enjoy it.
Thanks for reading!