I was actually pretty excited to pick up A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier because back in the 8th grade I did a science fair project about the Spanish flu and I couldn't believe nobody had told me about it and that it wasn’t more well-known. I also was convinced that there would be another flu pandemic and this was back before SARS and stuff so years later I definitely felt validated. Anyway because of not-so-inner science nerd, it was pretty exciting to see a novel set during that period and focusing on those issues. Honestly, if I wasn't too lazy to write historical fiction, it is definitely a period I would love to cover.
Enough background though. A Death-Struck Year itself is about Cleo Berry, ends up alone during the time that the Spanish flu is reaching Portland, Oregon, something that at first seems impossible but is later inevitable. Cleo has never quite known what she wants to do in her life, besides make some kind of difference, and she takes her independence as the perfect opportunity to volunteer for the Red Cross. She also has some past experiences that contribute to her wanting to help strangers that might not get help otherwise.
The story is decent and well-researched, but unfortunately A Death-Struck Year well a bit flat for me, and I probably wouldn’t pick up anything else by Lucier unless the topic really grabbed me again. Maybe it's because of my own knowledge on the topic, but I just wanted more intensity and emotion out of the book. The writing is easy to read and follow, and probably appealing to a younger YA audience, but I felt like it had more potential than it fulfilled. There's also a bit of a "romance" that I was very indifferent too. I definitely thought the story was stronger when it came to friendship and family, but the story as a whole felt more like it was told me rather than it was something I was really living.
A Death-Struck Year is a novel with all the right parts, it covers really interesting issues from many angles and is well researched, but the writing lacks the depth and emotion that it needs to take Lucier's book from something that was decent, to something that was truly memorable. But I am definitely hoping this is not the last novel about the Spanish flu!
Release Date: March 4th 2014 Pages: 288 Format: Egalley
Source: Netgalley Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers Buy It: Book Depository