Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Death-Struck Year Blog Tour

A Death-Struck Year
Author: Makiia Lucier
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 4, 2014

A deadly pandemic, a budding romance, and the heartache of loss make for a stunning coming-of-age teen debut about the struggle to survive during the 1918 flu.
For Cleo Berry, the people dying of the Spanish Influenza in cities like New York and Philadelphia may as well be in another country--that's how far away they feel from the safety of Portland, Oregon. And then cases start being reported in the Pacific Northwest. Schools, churches, and theaters shut down. The entire city is thrust into survival mode--and into a panic. Headstrong and foolish, seventeen-year-old Cleo is determined to ride out the pandemic in the comfort of her own home, rather than in her quarantined boarding school dorms. But when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she can't ignore the call. As Cleo struggles to navigate the world around her, she is surprised by how much she finds herself caring about near-strangers. Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student and war vet. Strangers who could be gone tomorrow. And as the bodies begin to 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. Readers will be captured by the suspenseful storytelling and the lingering questions of: what would I do for a neighbor? At what risk to myself?
An afterword explains the Spanish flu phenomenon, placing it within the historical context of the early 20th century. Source notes are extensive and interesting.

What inspired you to write about the Spanish Influenza?

I’ve always been fascinated by epidemics and plagues. I think it’s because I didn’t have cable growing up and Ben Hur was always on CBS-one of the few channels we did have. I must have watched that scene where Charlton Heston discovers his family in the Valley of the Lepers at least a thousand times. It stuck with me. Outbreaks that stem from leprosy, or the Black Death, or Spanish Flu sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but they really happened. And how terrifying and fascinating is that?

What kind of research did you do for A Death-Struck Year?
I started off by reading The Great Influenza by John M. Barry, which I highly recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about Spanish Flu. I pored over old pictures, maps, newspaper articles, postcards, train timetables, Census records… anything and everything that would help me better understand Cleo’s world. I also spent time just hanging out in some of the places that appear in the book: the Skidmore Fountain, the Central Library, Union Station, the historic district of King’s Hill. Also Yamhill Street, where the old Public Market once stood.

I didn’t want A Death-Struck Year to end up reading like a textbook, but it was important that the history behind the story was correct.
Who was your favorite character to write? Why?

I love Cleo, of course, but I also had a lot of fun writing about Jack. If I had to be an orphan, I would hope to have a cool older brother like Jackson Berry as my guardian.
What does your writing space look like?
I work in a small office with an old blue wingback, an antique desk I bought in Oregon, and dozens of index cards lined up on the carpet like toy soldiers. It’s not sexy, and it’s such a hassle moving those cards when it’s time to vacuum. But it works for me.
If A Death-Struck Year had a theme song what would it be?
I’ve lost track of the number of times I listened to In a Dream while working on my drafts. Both the a cappella rendition by Bo Bice (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmeS3v_w4Kk) and the Badlands version (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZGZykPDwdE&feature=kp).


A Death-Struck Year combines two of my favorite things, 1. Portland, Oregon 2. The Spanish Influenza. I went to undergrad in Portland so the city holds a special place in my heart. I love reading books that take me back there. I also have a strange obsession with the Spanish influenza. It’s fascinating that a flu swept across the globe, killed a huge portion of the population, and no one knows the cause. There is also the possibility that the same thing could happen again.

I liked Cleo Berry, the main character, she has been through a lot and come out stronger for it. Her parents died when she was young and she is living with her brother and his wife. She attends school, but doesn’t really know what she wants to do. Cleo is like a lot of teens and I found her really relatable. I also like that when the flu struck she was willing to volunteer with the red cross when so many others were staying home and trying to ride out the flu.

My favorite part of this story was the character development that each character undergoes. It’s like there is a pre-flu and post-flu counterpart for every person in the story. Cleo in the few weeks of the flu changes from a girl who isn’t sure of herself, or her abilities, to someone who helps others through the worst times of their lives.

I also really enjoyed the relationship between Cleo and Edmund. Edmund is a war survivor and a student doctor. He was such a selfless character, and the moments Cleo and Edmund share are so sweet!

Overall, A Death-Struck Year was a novel I enjoyed. The storyline and setting kept me interested until the last page and while the ending was open I kind of liked it better that way because it felt very true to life. I’m already looking forward to Makiia Lucier’s next novel!

About The Author
Makiia Lucier grew up on the Pacific island of Guam. She received a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Oregon and a master's in library studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She's had plenty of jobs, mostly in libraries, and currently lives in the small college town of Moscow, Idaho.

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1 comment:

  1. I;m almost done with my degree in Microbiology so anything bug-related catches my interest, and this one sounds like it was actually done right.