The Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen is a middle grade fantasy that features strong, likable characters and a subtle mystery that unfolds gently and gradually through most of the book. As young readers start putting together pieces of the puzzle, pages will turn in a rush to find out the truth behind the Scourge.
Note: I received an advanced copy of THE SCOURGE from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.
The Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Published by Scholastic on August 30, 2016
Page Length: 368 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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As a lethal plague sweeps through the land, Ani Mells is shocked when she is unexpectedly captured by the governor's wardens and forced to submit to a test for the deadly Scourge. She is even more surprised when the test results come back positive, and she is sent to Attic Island, a former prison turned refuge -- and quarantine colony -- for the ill. The Scourge's victims, Ani now among them, can only expect to live out short, painful lives there. However, Ani quickly discovers that she doesn't know the whole truth about the Scourge or the Colony. She's been caught in a devious plot, and, with the help of her best friend, Weevil, Ani means to uncover just what is actually going on.
But will she and Weevil survive long enough to do so?
- Strong characters in Ani, Weevil, and Della make this a very engaging story, especially as friendships – some unexpected – develop and deepen in the face of a common enemy. These young people need to overcome centuries of hostility between their peoples in order to solve the mystery of the Scourge and get home to their families. It is a novel written on multiple levels, and parents and teachers can use this as a springboard for discussions about friendship, different races, and the nature of authority.
- I really enjoyed the friendship between Ani and Weevil …. and how it remains a deep and abiding friendship between two friends who are there for each other no matter what. No romance springs up, which is a refreshing change.
- The mystery is multi-layered and unexpected, although by about 1/3 of the way into the book, I was picking up clues that there was more to the illness and the political situation than was initially evident. It quickly turns into a compelling read as you try to figure out if you are right in your deductions, and chapters will just fly by.
- I thought that the ultimate confrontation and resolution to the mystery of the Scourge was a bit far-fetched, and the demouement felt rushed, although it is probably appropriate for the age of the target audience.
On the whole, this was a refreshing and enjoyable book. The young heroes are thrown into a situation that feels plausible …. and they just refuse to give up until they find a way to go home … solving one of the great mysteries of their time along the way.
THE SOURGE by JENNIFER A. NIELSEN
© 2016, Barbara. All rights reserved.