Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on March 4th, 2014
Genres: Historical, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
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?
An afterword explains the Spanish flu phenomenon, placing it within the historical context of the early 20th century. Source notes are extensive and interesting.
Hey! Let’s read a book about the Spanish Influenza! Okay! I pretty much decided going in, that anyone I met would probably be dying later on in the book. Granted, only about 20% of the characters introduced ended up dying. That was a bit of a bummer for me, as I was hoping for an actual death-struck year and not the magical literary eye of the hurricane.
The story centers around Cleo Berry, who makes some poor decisions before deciding to help at the local pop-up Red Cross operation. She’s got no direction in life and everything about her is pretty flighty, so watching her actually buckle down and help people was interesting. The girl showed a lot of constitution and was more than once told that she should consider being a nurse or a doctor. Even when things got hard, she remained steadfast in helping people.
Those people she helped? Pretty much all of them survived. No one Cleo Berry found and brought in suffered from an untimely death. No, that was only reserved for random passerby’s and the one girl her age who she made friends with. The love interest doesn’t get sniffles and neither does her pregnant sister-in-law.
Betcha there’s a lot of graphic descriptions of Spanish Influenza in this book!? Eh? Eh? No, not so much. Most of the descriptions are clinical at best. Had I not read most of the Outlander series, it might not have phased me. But I’m used to my doctoring descriptions to offer clinical observation followed by empathetic details. There were no empathetic details. Even when one of the more critical characters died, there was only a detached factual distance. Welp, her face is blue, guess she’s boned.
Even the romance was lukewarm at best. We’re expected to just go with it when they were mostly offering a co-worker’s interest in each other. That somehow translated into forever romance? Whatever.
For something that started out promising, it lost me partway through with it’s lack of empathy. Sorry.