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I Belong

Review: A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

adeathstruckyearTitle: A Death-Struck Year

Author: Makiia Lucier

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Series: N/A

Publication Date: March 4, 2014

Format: Hardcover, 288 Pages

ISBN-10: 0544164504 (HMH)

ISBN-13: 978-0544164505 (HMH)

Reviewed by: Kaitlin


In the grip of the deadly 1918 flu pandemic, not even the strong survive.

The Spanish influenza is devastating the East Coast–but Cleo Berry knows it is a world away from the safety of her home in Portland, Oregon. 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 cannot ignore the call for help. 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?

Riveting and well-researched, A Death-Struck Year is based on the real-life pandemic considered the most devastating in recorded world history, and leaves readers asking: what would I do for a neighbor? At what risk to myself?

Quick & Dirty: This book was well written and a great novel for lovers of historical fiction. Did tend to get boring at times, but the sweet romance and thought-provoking chapters made up for it.

Opening SentenceIn the coming weeks, I would wish I had done things differently.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

A Death Struck Year was a great story. It follows Cleo as the Spanish Influenza takes over the world, killing millions. The romance was sweet, the history terrifying. This author knows how to use words to affect you with simple sentences, much like Shannon Hale. I was impressed with the book, though a few times my mind did drift, and I got bored —manly the reason for the three star review. Towards the end, it sped up and many of the key events happened in the last 50 pages. So many deaths were happening between the covers, the descriptions of the flu cases were depressing. It was all very thought-provoking. Though short, this novel was provocative and enjoyable.

Cleo is the main character. She’s brave and smart, with a lot of courage she doesn’t see in herself as others do. Her lack of confidence remains there throughout most of the book, but it makes you like her even more with her flaws. I like the way her doubt doesn’t make her turn away from helping at the Red Cross, and how she can find strength in the lives she saves. Her family lives in Portland, with Mrs. Foster (the housekeeper), but her brother and his pregnant wife are away. Cleo is forced to live on her own for awhile — although she doesn’t exactly flourish while cleaning, cooking, and washing the clothes, she is certainly an asset to the Red Cross (even if she can’t see it herself).

Edmund, the love interest, was also amazing. I actually wish that I could have more of Edmund, because he’s so sweet and sensitive, yet strong, brave. He doesn’t flinch in the face of danger and is undeniably Cleo’s rock through many a hard night. Not that he isn’t a unique character. I have never known such a blend of quiet manliness until after I read this book. He is more soft-spoken than other love interests, but definitely doesn’t fade into the background. His whole personality was interesting to me and I’m glad I got to meet this character.

The setting was well-done. This might not have been a dystopian or fantasy novel, but the world-building was great. It was scary to see as gradually, the city began to sink. When people died, there weren’t enough graves. There were never enough stores that were open because the clerks kept getting sick. The one that really got me, for some reason, was when Cleo and her friend were digging out the peach pits and sending them to the army for their carbon to use in gas masks. This was really intriguing to me, and carried a lot of morbid foreboding: I don’t know why this made me feel so suddenly involved in the story, but it did. Portland was a cool viewpoint as we got to see the influenza spread quickly until it finally reached us, but it was a little dull occasionally when all that was exciting was the newspapers telling us how quickly the sickness was coming.

Overall, I was a fan of this book. The three stars was mostly because of the uninteresting parts when I wasn’t feeling hooked or any need to keep reading. Also, though, this genre isn’t my cup of tea, so it’s rare I really like anything from the historical fiction as much as I would dystopian or sci-fi. I’m impressed that I liked it as much as I did, really, so if you do really enjoy this kind of novel than check it out. If not you might not feel as fond about it, but I’m sure you will still adore Cleo and Edmund. I know I did. This has an awesome setting, a semi-exciting plot, and provokes a lot of emotion. Try it out!

Notable Scene:

“You don’t believe that, do you?” Bitterness crept into Margaret’s tone. “How long have they been saying that? The war will be over by Thanksgiving. Our boys will be home by Christmas.” She flung a pit into the bucket so hard it thunged against the metal. “The newspapers say a lot of things, Cleo.”


FTC Advisory: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers provided me with a copy of A Death Struck Year. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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