Synopses & Reviews
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.
A Spring 2014 Indies Introduce New Voices selection
"Hattie Inez Brooks, the determined 17-year-old heroine of Larson's Newbery Honor winning Hattie Big Sky, returns in this follow-up set in 1919. Her homestead claim having failed, Hattie soldiers through her menial job in a boardinghouse until a traveling acting troupe offers her a job that thrusts her into city life in San Francisco, giving her the chance to pursue her real dream: becoming a reporter. Larson deftly balances first-person narration with charming letters and newspaper stories written by Hattie. The city presents a colorful cast of characters, including an attractive reporter and a duplicitous con artist who pretends to be her ally. Hattie's struggle to become a journalist working first as a maid, graduating to researching, and beginning to write forms the emotional heart of the story, though there's a moving romantic undercurrent, as well, as Hattie contemplates whether she should settle down with Charlie, her love interest back home. Fans of the first novel will gladly reconnect with this memorable heroine, but the narrative stands firmly on its own, too. Ages 10 up. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Readers will be swept up in the story as Cleo builds friendships and manages to find hope amid disease and death."—Kirkus
"Highly sympathetic characters, a solid sense of place, and the transformation of a city under siege by an invisible assailant result in a powerful and disturbing reading experience."
"Lucier has done her research, creating a compelling work of historical fiction alongside a more timeless journey of self-discovery."—Bulletin
* "The novel's strong voice intimately places readers directly into the dramatic plot right up to climactic ending. . . . Lucier's novel deserves a place in all high school collections."
—School Library Journal, starred review
"Lucier's debut details Cleo's loss of innocence, as she deals with gruesome deaths and emergency surgeries...supplying readers with a broad understanding of the era and the epidemic via a spirited and easy-to-relate-to protagonist."
"A rare window into another time and place, one that invites readers to draw parallels to their own lives in contemporary times."
—Horn Book Magazine
After leaving Uncle Chester's homestead claim, orphan Hattie Brooks throws a lasso around a new dream, even bigger than the Montana sky. She wants to be a reporter, knowing full well that a few pieces published in the Arlington News will not suffice. Real reporters must go to Grand Places, and do Grand Things, like Hattie's hero Nellie Bly. Another girl might be stymied by this, but Hattie has faced down a hungry wolf and stood up to a mob of angry men. Nothing can squash her desire to write for a big city newspaper. A letter and love token from Uncle Chester's old flame in San Francisco fuels that desire and Hattie jumps at the opportunity to get there by working as a seamstress for a traveling acting troupe. This could be her chance to solve the mystery of her "scoundrel" uncle and, in the process, help her learn more about herself. But Hattie must first tell Charlie that she will not join him in Seattle. Even though her heart approves of Charlie's plan for their marriage, her mind fears that saying yes to him would be saying no to herself. Hattie holds her own in the big city, literally pitching her way to a byline, and a career that could be even bigger than Nellie Bly's. But can making headlines compensate for the pain of betrayal and lost love? Hattie must dig deep to find her own true place in the world. Kirby Larson once again creates a lovingly written novel about the remarkable and resilient young orphan, Hattie Inez Brooks.
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.
About the Author
After KIRBY LARSON heard a snippet of a story about her great-grandmother homesteading in eastern Montana, she went on to write Hattie Big Sky, winner of a 2007 Newbery Honor Award. This sequel was written in part to answer many questions readers posed about the irrepressible Hattie. Connect with the author on her blog (www.kirbyslane.blogspot.com) or via Twitter (@kirbylarson).