Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Plague Year by Edward Bloor

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 GoodReads)

Back in 7th grade I read Tangerine by Edward Bloor and it remains one of my favorite novels. So when I had the chance to read something else by this author, I was super excited. I hadn't read any of Edward Bloor's work since then. A Plague Year seemed like it would be an interesting choice.

When I first started A Plague Year I wasn't sure what to expect. I had no idea if the "zombies" were just a metaphor for people on drugs or if there were going to be actual zombies caused by meth (sort of like science fiction). Once I got halfway through the book and nothing was actually happening did I realize that the term "zombies" was just a metaphor.

A Plague Year is written like a journal, with Tom narrating his freshman year of high school during 2001. Obviously 9/11 plays a pretty big part, especially since Tom lives in Pennsylvania near where United 93 crashed. I really enjoyed reading about Tom and even though nothing much happened the writing was still good.

The synopsis makes it seem like there is going to major crisis caused by meth. And while some periphery characters get caught up in the drug, it always felt like it was at a distance. Drug use and abuse is a huge theme in A Plague Year: many people in Tom's life have used drugs (not meth) like alcohol and pot. Tom even attends drug counseling meetings at school even though he doesn't have a problem. Leaving out the meth, I thought the book did a good job of showing how anyone can be affected by drugs, even those not using. I think A Plague Year should have focused on that and not the meth.

I also thought that things could have been better developed. The characters could have been more fleshed out and the plot just kind of ends. I would have liked more resolution. Other than that, I still enjoyed A Plague Year and definitely want to look out for more of Edward Bloor's work.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
FTC: received from Random Buzzers

2011/Knopf Books for Young Readers/296 pages.

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