Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

From Back Cover: The Spanish influenza is devastating the East Coast - but Cleo Berry knows that's a world away from the safety of her home of Portland, Oregon. And then the flu moves into the Pacific Northwest. Schools, churches, and theaters are shut down. The entire city is thrust into survival mode - and into a panic. Seventeen-year-old Cleo is told to stay put in her quarantined boarding school, but when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she can't ignore the call. In the grueling days that follow her headstrong decision, she risks everything for near strangers. Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student. Strangers who could be gone tomorrow. And as the bodies pile up, Cleo can't help but wonder: When will her own luck run out? 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier is a historical fiction novel that examines the impact of the Spanish influenza in Portland during the months of October and November 1918. Since WWI was also occurring at this time, it would have been nice if Lucier had interwoven the effects of the war on Americans a bit more strongly into the story. That being said, I thought A Death-Struck Year was very well-researched, even if it did take me some time to get into the story.

Cleo, the main character, was very realistic. While I had my future planned out as a seventeen-year-old, unlike Cleo, I realized that I didn’t want to be a doctor or a geneticist once I went to university. This insight left me confused about what career path to pursue, and so I could relate to Cleo right from the start when she was complaining to her older brother that she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. I also liked that her decision to volunteer for the Red Cross wasn’t impulsive and that she got scared when confronted with her own mortality.

Additionally, Lucier did a really good job of showing how people’s reactions can vary during tough situations. Although many people volunteered for the Red Cross or helped neighbours and strangers despite the risk of infection, others abandoned their sick family members or took advantage of their neighbours’ misfortunes. I would have liked though for the deaths that occurred in A Death-Struck Year to have left more of an emotional impact on me.

Finally, I liked that the romance in A Death-Struck Year didn’t overshadow the plot. The subtleness of it was appropriate and realistic because both Cleo and Edmund, a medical student, were too busy taking care of the sick and dying to spend a ton of time together.

An informative read, A Death-Struck Year was released in March 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers. 

Comments About the Cover: The face mask makes it pretty memorable. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Thomas Allen & Son) for free.


  1. Love your review. This has been on my radar for a while now, it's good to know it's well researched. I'm really into YA historical fiction at the moment and this sounds right up my street. :)

  2. I've been curious about this one for a while now Z! I'm glad the romance is of the subtle variety, that seems fitting given the story's context, and it's good to see this was a solid read overall for you:)

  3. I've read really good reviews of this one and I'm glad that it was well researched, which could make or break a historical fiction novel. Even though it was hard to get into, I'm glad you were able to enjoy it overall.

  4. I've been very curious about this one - it reminds me a little Cat Winters' debut novel, which I loved. I'm glad to hear that the romance was subtle and didn't overshadow the plot (that's generally how I like it). This sounds like a very solid read overall. Lovely review!

  5. I was thinking the same thing as Sam above, this one really reminds me of In the Shadow of Blackbirds and that was a great book. The main character sounds easy to relate to and it's great that the romance wasn't the main focus of the book!


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