“THE SCOURGE,” by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Scholastic Press, Aug. 30, 2016, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 9 and up)
If you or your child is a fan of “Princess Academy,” by Shannon Hale, then “The Scourge,” by Jennifer A. Neilsen, should be added to the top of your to-be-read list.
“The Scourge” follows Ani Mells, who is known for getting into, and out of, trouble. But when she’s suspected of having the Sourge, even she can’t talk her way out of punishment. Three hundred years ago, the Scourge appeared, wiping out the population of Keldan and shattering its economy. Last year, the Scourge returned, and when people test positive, they’re sent to Attic Island, a former prison turned refuge — and quarantine colony — for the ill.
Ani is one of the River People, content — for the most part — with staying with her people and away from towns. And up until Ani’s run-in with the governor’s wardens, none of the River People have tested positive. Ani knows she can’t expose her family and friends to the disease so she gives up fighting and joins the other Scourge victims on Attic Island.
The Scourge is an insidious disease that quickly disposes of its victims. However, once Ani arrives on the island, she realizes no one was telling the entire story about the Scourge or the colony. There’s more to the Scourge’s sudden reappearance, and the medicine designed to help, may be something else in disguise. It’s up to Ani and her best friend, Weevil, to uncover what is going on before the Scourge overtakes Keldan for good.
I’m a big fan of Jennifer A. Nielsen. Her False Prince trilogy and the first two books of her Mark of the Thief trilogy are excellent. As is her stand-alone novel, “A Night Divided” about the Berlin Wall. With “The Scourge” Jennifer’s storytelling only gets better. Her prose continues to mature right beside her pacing and storytelling.
In Ani we find a strong and smart young woman who may be too clever and too daring for her own good. She’s flawed but likeable. I found myself thinking, “What’s she going to get herself into next?” a few times.
Another strength of “The Scourge” is the overall plotting. Though there are a few telling moments, I never found myself mired in predictable elements. Instead, each scene flowed from one to the next. I highly recommend “The Scourge” for boys and girls looking for adventure and fun.
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