The Scourge by Jennifer Nielsen
Published by Scholastic Press on August 30, 2016
Genres: Childrens, Middle Grade, Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 396 Format: ARC Source: BEA
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 long enough to do so?
I acquired this ARC from the publisher at Book Expo America. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Intrigued by the cover and mention of the plague I picked up a copy of The Scourge by Jennifer Nielsen at BEA. Apparently I’m trying to expand out to more middle grade and I think a story can be enjoyable regardless of the age range it appeals to. It was certainly the case with this one. Ani is taken from her home in the River Country and told she has a deadly disease but her friend Weevil won’t leave her side. Soon the two of them, caught up in a much larger plot, must persevere to find a way out.
What I Liked
I think the best part of this book has to be the characters. Ani was impetuous, always getting herself into trouble and Weevil was her counterbalance, thinking things through. They had skills that complimented each other and their friendship was so encouraging. Even Della, while a stuck up brat for a good portion of the story, pushed through her judgments and used all her strength to make a difference.
The undercurrent of the story was the politics of Keldan and most importantly the separation and differences between the townsfolk and the river people. They treated each other horribly and had nasty nicknames for each other like pinchworms and grubs. I loved how Nielsen wove in these prejudices and showed how tolerance could be achieved. It’s so so important with how the world is currently.
What I Disliked
The only real issue I had with the story was how basic and predictable it ended up being. Even Ani knew something was off from the get go. I figured out early on what was actually taking place and it took away my enjoyment just a bit. I like a little suspense and drama and it was really lacking in this narrative for me. This might have to do with the fact that it is a childrens/middle grade book but I still wanted more.
Overall The Scourge by Jennifer Nielsen was an easy read with wonderful characters and important lessons. The narrative is straight forward yet still somewhat compelling and Ani and Weevil brought this land to life. Despite my issues with predictability I still ended up enjoying it. While this one will work for a wide age range, I think it will be excellent for kids and middle school students.
So are you interested in reading The Scourge? Do you pick up a lot of middle grade titles? Do you have any favorites? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below!