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A Death-Struck Year Hardcover – March 4, 2014

4.2 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up—Seventeen-year-old Cleo Berry frets over an uncertain future devoid of plans, dreams, and ambitions. However, when the Spanish influenza strikes her hometown of Portland, Oregon, she does not hesitate to volunteer for the American Red Cross. Lucier's vividly accurate description of the 1918 pandemic will make readers tremble over the teen's fate, wondering whether she will be next on the list of victims. Cleo faces the ultimate dilemma: Given a choice between herself and others, who will she choose in the face of calamity? The pace of the writing is swift, and the author spares little in her account of those afflicted and others who sacrificed their own lives to help save them: loved ones and strangers burying individuals on their own without burial societies, members of the Red Cross going door-to-door in search of the sick, and young people dying as easily as their elders from the disease. This first-person narrative is as much Cleo's coming-of-age story as it is a full historical account of the pandemic. The novel's strong voice intimately places readers directly into the dramatic plot right up to climactic ending. Nothing is sugarcoated, making this a difficult pick for the squeamish, who may not easily tolerate the abundant flow of blood and raging fever throughout. The mood of almost hopeless desperation that mounts toward the second half of the book cannot be readily shaken off. In the same vein of Laurie Halse Anderson's Fever 1793 (S. & S., 2000), Lucier's debut novel deserves a place in all high school collections.—Etta Anton, Yeshiva of Central Queens, NY

From Booklist

It’s 1918 and the Spanish flu is ravaging the East Coast. But surely Portland, home of 17-year-old schoolgirl Cleo, is “too far west for the influenza.” Well, it’s not. When 200 reports of the flu pop up overnight, those children without family to pick them up are quarantined inside the boarding school. Cleo sneaks out and heads home, only to find that her guardian is delayed, leaving her alone for weeks—at least. She is compelled to volunteer with the Red Cross, donning a white cloth mask and doing the dangerous work of going door-to-door to rescue those incapacitated by illness. Lucier’s debut details Cleo’s loss of innocence, as she deals with gruesome deaths and emergency surgeries—not to mention side issues such as anti-German sentiment and learning what “birth control” means. This has a rather old-fashioned rhythm, with numerous small incidents supplying readers with a broad (rather than deep) understanding of the era and the epidemic via a spirited and easy-to-relate-to protagonist. Grades 7-10. --Daniel Kraus

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: HL600L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (March 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0544164504
  • ISBN-13: 978-0544164505
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #912,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Divascribe VINE VOICE on February 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Just as World War I -- then known as the Great War -- seemed to be winding down, the world faced another horror: the Spanish Influenza. Millions died around the world from a strain of flu no one knew how to stop. Almost 700,000 were killed by it in America.

In September 1918, most people living on the West Coast thought they were safe because the worst outbreaks were on the East Coast. Then a trainload of soldiers from Boston arrived in Washington state. In no time, residents of Washington and Oregon started falling ill.

In "A Death-Struck Year," 17-year-old Cleo Berry is entering her last year of high school and thinking about what she is going to do with her life. Her parents are dead, so she lives with her older brother and his wife in Portland, Oregon. When the couple go on an anniversary trip to San Francisco, Cleo is left in the house with the servants and told to keep herself safe. That turns out to be harder than anyone imagined.

When Cleo's school, along with all private and public schools, churches and other gathering places, are ordered closed to prevent the spread of infection, Cleo goes home. The housekeeper is visiting her family out of town and, fearful of the infection, chooses to stay away. Cleo, left on her own, winds up helping in a makeshift hospital set up in the city's new symphony hall. There, she encounters a host of dedicated medical personnel and volunteers, among them a young medical student named Edmund Parrish.

The book follows Cleo and the others thorough the harrowing weeks and months of fall 1918 and early 1919, as they struggle to keep stricken adults and children alive. Medical supplies and personnel are stretched to the limit.

This is a serious novel about a serious topic.
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Wow! This book really made me glad for modern medicine. This isn’t my normal go to book. I like romance. But I am a nurse, so it really intrigued me. There is romance here but it really isn’t the main point of the book. This is about the Epidemic of the Spanish Influenza (the flu) of 1918.

Cleo is almost 18 years old. Her parents died when their carriage had an accident when she was a small child. Cleo had to leave on foot and find help because no one would find them if she didn't. She is now under the care of her older brother,Jack, and sister in-law. Jack’s anniversary comes up and He sends her to stay in the dorms of her school while he and his wife go celebrate their anniversary.

While away, everything starts to be quarantined and shut down until further notice because of the flu. Cleo decides to go home, but since her brother isn’t in town to pick her up as the school requested, she sneaks out. She ventures out and volunteers with the Red Cross. She goes to homes to make sure people have masks and information about the flu and find people who have no one to take care of them. She finds some people and takes them to a make shift hospital set up at the auditorium. At times, she wants to quit. It was overwhelming the people dead and dying and what she learns. She makes friends. She meets Edmund who is working hard to save their lives and he cares for Cleo. He is the love interest.

There is a lot of pain and suffering and hope and loss. But I really liked that she was dedicated and worried. But you could also tell she was in shock often.She sees death and dying all around her and it is overwhelming. Like it was really all some horrible nightmare.

The medical part made me glad that I wasn’t a nurse back then. I have seen people die of the flu before but not like this. It is a story that sucked me in until the very last word.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A DEATH-STRUCK YEAR takes place in Portland, Oregon during late 1918 and early 1919. People on the West Coast have heard horrible stories of many people becoming very ill and dying from this strain of the flu on the East Coast, but they never expected it to travel to the West Coast. It did.

This novel is told from the point of view of Cleo Berry, a seventeen-year-old student of a girls' school in Portland. This school serves both day and boarding students; Cleo normally lives at home with her older brother and sister-in-law, but they are going away on a trip, and have even given the housekeeper leave.

The flu strikes during this period. Churches, theaters, even schools, are shut down for the duration. The girls at Cleo's school who are day students or live nearby are sent home; the more distant boarders are confined to the campus.

Of course, Cleo really isn't supposed to be home alone, but she leaves campus and goes home. She learns that the Red Cross is in desperate need of help of all kinds. She can drive a car, so she goes to the auditorium and volunteers.

The city of Portland is in survival mode, with strict regulations. Even so much as a sneeze could lead to expulsion from a public place. Many times, Cleo is close to giving up, but she thinks, "If not me, then who?" and carries on until she herself falls ill. During the time she can help, a romance kindles between her and a young medical student. Perhaps even more important, Cleo, who, before the epidemic was unsure of who she was and what she wanted to do with her life after she finished school, has now found direction and purpose.

This is a fictionalized account of the time that the Spanish flu struck Portland, but it is well-researched.
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