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A Plague Year [Kindle Edition]

Edward Bloor
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $9.99
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

It's 2001 and zombies have taken over Tom's town. Meth zombies. The drug rips through Blackwater, PA, with a ferocity and a velocity that overwhelms everyone.

It starts small, with petty thefts of cleaning supplies and Sudafed from the supermarket where Tom works. But by year's end there will be ruined, hollow people on every street corner. Meth will unmake the lives of friends and teachers and parents. It will fill the prisons, and the morgues.

Tom's always been focused on getting out of his depressing coal mining town, on planning his escape to a college somewhere sunny and far away. But as bits of his childhood erode around him, he finds it's not so easy to let go. With the selfless heroism of the passengers on United Flight 93 that crashed nearby fresh in his mind and in his heart, Tom begins to see some reasons to stay, to see that even lost causes can be worth fighting for. 

Edward Bloor has created a searing portrait of a place and a family and a boy who survive a harrowing plague year, and become stronger than before.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

EDWARD BLOOR is the author of several acclaimed novels including Taken, winner of the Florida Sunshine State Young Reader Award; London Calling, a Book Sense 76 Top Ten selection; and Tangerine, which was an ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults, a Horn Book Fanfare Selection, and a Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 10, 2001

I was staring through the window of Dad’s van when I saw the shopping cart, stranded like a lost dog at the corner of Sunbury Street and Lower Falls Road. The green plastic trim and the white Food Giant logo identified it as one of ours. Maybe a customer had wheeled it, illegally, to a house around the corner, unloaded it, and then wheeled it back to that spot in an effort to say, I didn’t really steal this. I was just borrowing it. You can have it back now.

Whatever. It wouldn’t be there for long. Bobby Smalls would pass this way in ten minutes. He would spot the cart and then comment bitterly about the person who had left it there, since he’d have to retrieve it as his first job of the day.

Dad turned right and our van bumped across the dark expanse of blacktop in front of the supermarket. The Food Giant sign was still in its low-wattage setting, glowing like a rectangular night light for the town of Blackwater. Dad is the general manager of this Food Giant, and he spends most of his waking life there. Although it was still an hour before opening and the lot was empty, he backed our Dodge Caravan into an outer space--a requirement for all employees. He asked, “Do you want me to leave it running, Tom?”

“No. I’ll just open a window.”

“Okay. I’ll leave the keys in case you change your mind. I’ll be about fifteen minutes, provided the system is up.”

I yawned, “Okay,” and lowered the electric window before he could turn the key.

Plan A was that Dad would drive me to school, which meant I would get there way early, before anybody, which meant that no one would see me being dropped off by a parent. This was infinitely better than plan B.

In plan B, Mom would drop me off later, in front of everybody, which meant that I might as well be wearing a yellow patrol boy vest and carrying a Pokemon lunch box.

But first we’d had to stop at the Food Giant because the Centralized Reporting System had been down the night before, so Dad hadn’t been able to input all his sales figures, reorders, et cetera, and send them to the corporate office. In theory, he would input those figures now, and we would be gone before the opening shift arrived at 6:45.

I watched him walk across the large, rolling parking lot. The Food Giant was built, like much of Blackwater, on the uneven landscape of Pennsylvania coal country. If a shopping cart got away from you in this lot, it could roll for fifty yards, building up to a speed of twenty miles per hour before it crashed into a parked vehicle. That could do some serious damage, as any cart retriever would tell you.

Dad disabled the alarm, unlocked the automatic doors, and slipped inside. I opened my PSAT prep book, hoping to get in a few minutes of study time.

But that was not to be.

First, I looked up and saw Bobby’s mother drop him off, fifteen minutes early, as usual. He was wearing his green Food Giant slicker in case of rain. (Bobby was always prepared. The Boy Scouts just said it; Bobby lived it.) After listening impatiently to some final words from his mother, he pushed away from the Explorer and started walking back toward Sunbury Street and that abandoned cart. Mrs. Smalls drove on to her job at the Good Samaritan Hospital.

Then, just as I had returned to my book, a louder engine sound disturbed me.

A black tow truck, driving too fast, bounced across the parking lot and took a hard left at the ATM. Its high-mounted headlights flashed right into my eyes. Then the driver killed the lights and backed up to the front of the store.

A man in a hooded sweatshirt and a black ski mask jumped out on the passenger side. He reached into the back of the truck and rolled out a metal hook so large that I could see it clearly from two hundred feet away. He wedged the hook into a slot in the ATM and gave the driver a hand signal. The truck lurched forward, creating a god-awful sound.

I was now sitting bolt upright and staring at them. They were trying to rip the ATM out of the wall and make off with it--steal the whole thing and crack it open later for the cash inside.

Suddenly, to my right, I saw a figure approaching. It was Bobby Smalls. He came running back clumsily in his green rain slicker, without the cart. He started waving his arms and shouting at the robbers.

I thought, Oh no, Bobby. Not now! Keep away from them! I slid over into the driver’s seat and grabbed the steering wheel, trying to think what to do. I started pounding on the horn, making as big a racket as I could.

The driver, dressed in the same type of dark disguise, stepped out of the truck. He was holding a strange object. It took me a few seconds to realize what it was--a compound bow. He then produced a feathered arrow, nocked it, and aimed it right at Bobby’s short, advancing body.

The beeping horn got Dad’s attention. He appeared behind the glass in the entranceway, looking bewildered. He pulled the door open and stepped outside, holding out one hand toward Bobby like a traffic cop trying to get him to halt.

The bowman changed his aim from Bobby to Dad and then back again. Was he going to shoot one of them? Or shoot one, reload, and get the other? Or was he just trying to scare them?

I couldn’t take the chance. I cranked the car key and hit the gas pedal. The old van roared like an angry lion. I yanked at the gearshift, still revving the engine, and dropped it into drive. The van took off with a squeal of spinning tires and rocketed across the parking lot.

The bow-and-arrow guy turned toward me and froze like a deer caught in the headlights. Then he aimed the bow right at me. I thought, Can an arrow pierce the windshield? He must have asked himself that same question and decided it could not. He lowered his weapon, tossed it into the cab, and climbed back into the driver’s seat.

I continued to accelerate toward the truck, closing the gap quickly, like I was going to ram it. (Honestly, I had no idea what I was going to do.) By now, the other man had unhooked the cable and had scrambled inside the cab, too.

The truck lurched forward and drove right at me, like in a deadly game of chicken. I hit the brakes and steered to the right, throwing the van into a wild skid, stopping just feet away from the frozen-in-place figure of Bobby Smalls.

The tow truck continued across the parking lot and shot across Route 16, accelerating away into the darkness.

I turned off the van’s engine, threw open the door, and hopped out.

Suddenly everything was quiet.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • File Size: 407 KB
  • Print Length: 322 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (September 13, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004J4XG6S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,066,381 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Acknowledging the Reality of a Meth Plague September 27, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Before reading this excellent book, I had thought of drug abuse as primarily an urban problem. But Blackwater PA, a small coal town far from any city is being affected in 2001. It starts with petty thefts of sudafed and cleaning supplies from the grocery store that the protagonist's father manages (relying upon the free labor of his wife and children to keep its profit margins high enough so that the vital community institution will not close. By the end of the year meth has decimated the town, causing fires and explosions, wiping out whole families and snuffing out dreams of escape and betterment.

Tom, the 9th grade protagonist is a member of the working class, with relatives who are barely holding on and a girlfriend whose father is part of the pretentious academic bourgeoisie. In school they study Defoe's book, A Journal of the Plague Year (Oxford World's Classics) and Tom draws comparisons between the book and the life of his town. And because he is a kid, the Night of the Living Dead.

I believe that this is classified as a young adult book, but it is excellent for all teens and adults, showing the true cost of methamphetamine use which is unlike any other drug. It doesn't sugar coat the reality and it can change your perception. At a time when most young adult books focus on middle class privileged suburbanites, this book focuses on ordinary people, the poor and the marginalized and shows them as humans who make choices and try to cope the best they can.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A Plague Year is the story of a small coal mining community in Pennsylvania as they struggle with the drug methamphetamine and the impact it has on their community. It takes place beginning in September 2001, when meth first began to hit the nationwide spotlight amidst stories of family addiction, armed robberies for cold pills, and the awful effects it's use has on the human body. I applaud the author for delivering an effective anti drug message here - he doesn't sugar coat anything, as the reader discovers the horror of this drug right along with the main character Tom, a ninth grader who is just beginning to become aware of the secrets in his hometown. This book stands out in YA literature of late because it features characters who are poor, not always the smartest or most attractive students, and who are coping with everyday life. It is firmly planted in the working class community, where going to college is sometimes not even an option, and the best kids have to hope for is finding a job that is "good enough for government work".

Young teens will enjoy Tom. He has a strong narrative voice, and they will easily relate to his confusion and self doubt. It is also easy to cheer for him as he discovers his own strength and his own sense of hometown pride during a time that many in the country were reeling from the 9/11 attacks and a floundering economy.

The author ties in this story with a class project the students are completing on Daniel DeFoe's book A Journal of The Plague Year. Also included is another tie in with the film Night of The Living Dead. I appreciated the comparisons, however this brings to light the reasons why this book barely squeaks into the three star rating for me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful page turner January 13, 2012
Edward Bloor has crafted a powerful page turner about a small town facing the siege of methamphetamine and the teens who fight back.

Tom Coleman began a journal on Monday, September 10, 2001 as part of a school assignment. His life is divided between his studies and his unpaid work at the Food Giant his dad runs, but he does squeeze in some PSAT preparation. When his story begins, he is viewing a robbery at the Food Giant and realizes an employee is in trouble. He acts quickly to stop it before anyone gets hurt, and then heads to school.

This opening begins a pattern for Tom, though of course his life changes with everyone else after 9/11. His small Pennsylvania town is not far from Shanksville, where United Flight 93 crashes after the heroic passengers take it over. But Tom is undergoing another change. His mother wants him and his older sister to attend an after-school drug discussion group, as addiction runs in his family and his sister already has one marijuana-related arrest. Tom and Lilly are surprised to find that their estranged wrong-side-of-the-tracks cousin has joined the meeting. Arthur is trying to stop the pattern of drugs that has affected his family.

The counseling group is run by Catherine, a counselor from a local university. Her beautiful daughter, Wendy, is there, and soon Tom is trying to get her attention. When she invites him to a party on the "right" side of town, Tom discovers that ugliness can be found under the surface anywhere. The group begins taking field trips to Shanksville to see the crash site and other powerful locations as the teens struggle to envision their futures outside of their dying small town among the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW
I loved this amazing book and how I could not ever stop reading!!!! I read at reading hour in school at the end of the day and I got out late sometimes bc I was so drawn into the... Read more
Published 14 months ago by CYNTHIA H WINKLER
2.0 out of 5 stars No Walter Whites In This Meth Story...
I didn’t just read The Plague Year, I studied it as it was a reading competition book for my high school. Read more
Published 17 months ago by KGK1995
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
A Plague Year had so much potential to be a powerful realistic story of a poor mining town destroyed by meth. Read more
Published 20 months ago by PDXbibliophile
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
I really enjoyed "A Plague Year." It was engaging, teased the reader about what was to come, and then delivered. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Joli K Stevens
4.0 out of 5 stars Methamphetamines
This book is a good read for adolescents. It describes how drug addiction takes over and can ruin people's lives.
Published 22 months ago by P. Gladfelter
5.0 out of 5 stars what a wonderful book!
This book is a quick read with a powerful message. It examines the scourge of drugs, while reminding us of the power of community. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Steve Czerniejewski
4.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful Commentary on the Powers of Meth
A Plague Year tackles two issues that most people have a strong opinion on. I haven't been a massive fan of fiction dealing with the events of September 11th. Read more
Published on March 10, 2012 by Mr. Bey
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book With Good Message for Teens
A Plague Year is written from the perspective of 14/15 year-old Tom and is set in the later half of 2001 in a small coal town in Pennsylvania. Read more
Published on February 19, 2012 by Irishman65
4.0 out of 5 stars A good cautionary tale
It is late summer of 2001 when Tom starts to hear about this new drug called crystal meth. He lives in a small mining town in Pennsylvania, where meth and mining are the main... Read more
Published on October 25, 2011 by Tiffany A. Harkleroad
3.0 out of 5 stars An okay read about a serious topic.
A Plague Year is about the toll home brew Meth takes upon a small tight knit community and how one character (the narrator) deals with the drug's horrific side effects and the... Read more
Published on October 17, 2011 by Joseph P. Ulibas
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More About the Author

I have always been a writer, for as far back as I can remember. In the mid-1990s, I sold a novel that was marketed in the young adult genre. Since then, things have gone very, very well. I am married to a beautiful teacher named Pam. We have two children--Amanda and Spencer.

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