Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

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.

First line:
In the coming weeks, I would wish that I had done things differently.
ARC from Netgalley
Publication Date:
March 4, 2014
4 vaccinations out of 5
I adore historical fiction novels. They give you a personal connection to the past by making up someone who lived through that time period and encountered common (or not so common) problems of the day. I also love books involving medical stuff. I'm planning on earning my BS in Nursing. So this book pretty much combined my two of my favorite things.

Have you ever wondered what it's like to watch your city go to chaos? A Death-Struck Year gives a good insight to the city of Portland during the time of the Spanish Influenza epidemic. But can you blame everybody? This is a time period where little was known about disease and the way its spread. A time period with no modern medicine. It really makes you wonder how you would respond to a situation like that. Would I be one of those who abandons their family when they fall ill? Or would I be one of the heroes, like Cleo, who helped in the hospitals, who "tempted fate"?

Cleo has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She feels like a loser because all of her friends know exactly where their lives are going after graduation in the spring. Cleo only knows what shes not going to do. When her school is quarantined, she sneaks out to return to her empty house (her brother and legal guardian, and his wife are on their second honeymoon). She sees an ad for volunteers at the Red Cross and Cleo decides to help. While volunteering, Cleo sees many hideous and despondent sights. She develops from an unsure girl to a brave, caring young woman. Cleo's reason for helping was pretty much the most heart-touching thing I had ever read.

Despite the short time she knew them, Cleo becomes very close to three people at the make-shift hospital. Hannah is the female director at the Auditorium "hospital." She's brave and determined and never stops going, going, going. Wherever she's needed she's there. Kate is Cleo's age. Her large family is all contributing to helping the Red Cross. Kate doesn't want to be at the hospital, but Cleo's determination inspires her to stick with it. Then there is Edmund. He's a former soldier and current second year medical student. He's protective of Cleo from the beginning. Slowly, they grow close and eventually fall in love. The amazing thing about these three characters is that Cleo really only knew them for a month, yet they all were extremely close. Tragedy does bring people together.

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