Published by Scholastic Press on 8/30/16
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
My content rating: YA (Just a kiss, Some MG level violence)
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?
A note about the genre: This is a non-magical fantasy. It takes place in a medieval-type fictional world but there aren’t any actual fantastical elements. Also, at first I thought this was a Young Adult book – the main characters seemed to fall into the young adult age category, but I’ve since found out that perhaps I was wrong. It’s labeled as Middle Grade. I actually think this is the type of book that both MG readers and younger YA readers would most definitely enjoy. I’m planning to pass this one to my daughter just as soon as my mom is done reading it. (See, I think it appeals to all ages!) The book is maybe a little overly sweet and easy in the end, but that’s the sort of ending my 12-year-old daughter still craves, so it’s perfect for her!
The Scourge follows Ani and her best friend Weevil, who are caught to be tested for the Scourge – and Ani is surprised to discover that she actually tests positive for the disease that’s been spreading throughout her country. They are sent off to a sort of prison camp for the sick – but it soon becomes apparent that the camp is not all about helping those with the disease – it’s about breaking them. The question is, why?
What Fed My Addiction:
- Headstrong Ani. Ani and Weevil are River People, who are considered a lower class in their society. They live out in the country in a more primitive environment than their village counterparts. Most of the people in the book look down on Ani and Weevil – they consider them to be beneath them. But the two soon prove that while they may not be as “refined” as the people from the village, they make up for that with strong spirits and practical know-how that helps them get out of plenty of sticky circumstances. Ani is singled out as a troublemaker from the very start, which causes her plenty of pain, but she refuses to simply give in and follow the status quo—especially once she realizes that the wardens on the island aren’t looking out for the residents’ best interests.
- Strong Friendship! Weevil and Ani are the type of friends who stick by each other, no matter what. They constantly put each other first and they don’t let other people get in their friendship, even when the wardens specifically try to do just that. I love that Ani recognizes how Weevil balances her (he can often be more level-headed than she is) and that she needs him in her life—and he needs her! I also appreciate that Weevil helps Ani be a little more open-minded about becoming friends with someone she’s not initially fond of (for good reason). Eventually, that other friendship becomes a great benefit! One small note regarding Ani and Weevil: View Spoiler »The friendship between Weevil and Ani does turn into the beginnings of a romance by the very end of the book. I liked that romance was not a focus of the book, but there was a little hint of it. « Hide Spoiler
What Left Me Hungry for More:
- A bit predictable in parts. I was okay with this as a middle grade read, but it was obvious to me what was happening with the Scourge WAY before the characters figured it out. Still, there was a definite twist regarding the government’s nefarious plans that I wasn’t expecting!
- A neat ending. In the end, things worked out a little too neatly and easily. Well, I don’t know if easily is the right word—Ani and Weevil had to go through a lot to escape their fate, but the very end all went a little too smoothly. I also thought that certain characters changed their tunes a little too quickly and completely.
Overall, I thought that this was a fun non-magical fantasy standalone, perfect for younger readers who like strong, feisty characters and a bit of adventure! I give it 4/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via #BEA16 in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Great review. I’ve been reading a lot of middlegrade lately, and I’ve also noticed the neat endings. It’s frustrating for adults, but I guess kids want everything wrapped up nicely.
I do like a good MG novel. The friendship sounds fantastic. Sorry you weren’t thrilled with the ending though!
I’m not reading that many middle grade books anymore now that I work at a high school. This one sounds like it could be good. I hate when an ending is “too neat” though. While I like things to be wrapped up whenever possible, I hate when it seems like they took the easy predictable way out. Great review!
I read The False Prince and was kind of “meh” about it (being a huge fan of Margaret Whalen Turner’s The Thief, which has a similar plot twist). Then I read A Night Divided and was super impressed. But yes, MG tends to wrap up a little too neatly for my taste as well. At any rate, I will probably give this one a try.
I LOVE Nielsen’s past work so I am so excited for The Scourge. I’m glad you though it was fun… and that it has a great friendship. Great review! I rarely read MG anymore, but when I do pick one up I usually really love it 🙂
Emily @ Reader Rising
This looks like a lot of fun and I really liked her other series. I think I will have to grab this one as well.