Friday, December 9, 2016

The Scourge - Jennifer A. Nielsen

Summary: When a plague isn’t all that kills…

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 the Scourge—and the gorvernor’s wardens—long enough to make their escape and expose the cruel plan? (Summary and image from goodreads.com)

Review:  Three hundred years ago, the people of Keldan were barely spared extinction from a disease they call the Scourge.  Frighteningly contagious, always lethal, and with no way to stop it, they still live in fear - especially that now, it seems the disease is making a resurgence.  Fortunately for Ani, the River People--her people, seem to be immune this time around... until she's rounded up by the wardens, tests positive, and is sent to the Colony - a "refuge" for those suffering from the Scourge.  Ani, however, is one that is known for either falling into trouble or creating new trouble out of nothing, and it doesn't take long before she starts to realize that there is more amiss than a disease.

I'm a new fan of Jennifer A. Nielsen's, with the first book of hers I remember reading the amazingly well-done A Night Divided. I found the depth of the characters, the speed of the story, and the maturity of the message so amazing, and I was eager to see the same caliber of writing here.  This is, however, a horse of a different color. While Nielsen has grabbed me in the past, this book lagged a bit, preventing me from feeling the same sense of urgency I had hoped for.  It felt like this book, while more action-packed, was written for a younger audience than the typical Middle Grade novels I'm used to.

The writing in this book felt rushed. Not the storyline, that actually started to get on my nerves to the point that I contemplated skipping ahead to just get to the solution already, but the writing repeated so many of the same threats and waffling from the characters, the efficacy and the urgency I feel like she attempts to convey is diluted into almost nothing. Unfortunately, the characters--good, evil, and ambiguous--also felt underdeveloped, which made it more difficult to care whether they succeeded or failed.  I would have loved to see more depth.  Through my entire reading, I kept thinking that this whole premise could be developed into an amazing series (similar to the Tuesdays at the Castle) series, but instead, it was just ... there.

I wonder if my nine year old girls (from my church group) would like this better. I do appreciate the spunk of Ani and the solidity of Weevil, and I think that a younger reader would appreciate it more than I did.
Rating: Three stars


For the Sensitive Reader: The wardens of the island are cruel - even to a child.

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