Makiia Lucier | A Death-Struck Year (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

If you are prone to attaching to characters easily, I would suggest having a box of tissues close by; I certainly had some moments of wanting one.

 

A Death-Struck Year is a young adult novel written by Makiia Lucier. The novel follows the story of Cleo Berry, a seventeen-year-old girl living in Portland, Oregon. After her school is closed down due to the Spanish Influenza, she decides to join the Red Cross. The novel follows her adventures as a Red Cross volunteer/nurse from 1918-1919.
 
Although the novel primarily deals with a sad time for hundreds of thousands of people, the story has glimmers of hope for many of the characters. Some of the patients Cleo brings in throughout the story greatly benefit from her risky actions. However, Cleo forgets about the preventable measures on occasion that expose her to the illness that is taking the lives of many people around her, which makes the reader increasingly concerned for Cleo’s health and wellbeing.
 
All in all, this book is a good read from cover to cover. If you are prone to attaching to characters easily, I would suggest having a box of tissues close by; I certainly had some moments of wanting one. The book also has some disturbing moments that describe the symptoms of the Spanish Influenza as well as some normal, but gross, human functions, but these descriptions add to the powerful storytelling the novel has. Without the discussion of vomit and fecal matter, the idea of Cleo, an upper middle class young lady, turning into a woman who is compassionate and concerned for people of all statuses isn’t conveyed well enough or in a strong enough manner. It seems as though the process of being as soiled as Cleo gets throughout the book is humbling in nature.
 
Lucier’s writing exceeded my expectations for a young adult novel. Her style felt more like historical fiction, not teen fiction, which typically has more romance or modern and internal struggles. I found Lucier’s novel to be entertaining and educational, a welcome surprise in a literary world that seems to separate the two types of writing more often than not. | Jasmine Kille
 

For more information, visit http://www.hmhco.com/shop/books/a-deathstruck-year/9780544164505.

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