The Scourge, by Jennifer Nielsen

As anyone whose read Jennifer Nielsen's The False Prince series knows, she's a writer that loves to set up scenarios in which there are many secrets not known to the reader, the sort of secrets that Change Everything once the characters figure things out.  If you like that sort of book, The Scourge (Scholastic, Aug. 30, 2016) is one for you!

Ani and her best friend, a boy named Weevil (and yes, he knows it's not a great name, but as he puts it, it's the only one he's got) belong to the River people, despised by the dominant culture of their country.   But though poor in material goods and often hungry, the River people are the only ones who haven't been affected by the latest outbreak of the Scourge, a horrible disease that spreads like wildfire elsewhere.  The governor has taken steps to control the epidemic, by quarantining the afflicted for life on an island that was once home to convicts.  Basically the colony of the sick is it's own mini dystopia, from which there is (in theory) no escape.

Ani and Weevil fall into the hands of the governor's wardens, and in the series of mischances, betrayals, and foolish (aka brave and motivated by their loyalty to each other) choices, they both find themselves prisoners on the island of the damned.  What follows is an unsnarling of all that has been warped, and a new hope for their country.  Ani and Weevil, the first of the River people to have been taken to the colony, are determined to resist, to question, to look for a cure, and to find what is rotten in the whole set-up.  And because they are fierce and smart and in possession of certain information not known outside their own folk, they succeed.  Ani is the more impetuous of the two, and Weevil's calmer approach balances her nicely.

Ani and Weevil's friendship turns into romance as the story progress, and this, plus the dystopian feel of the whole set up, makes me think The Scourge would be a good one for tweens moving up into YA.  But on the other hand, Jen Robinson, in her review, opines that it tilts young.  Either way, it's a gripping read, and it is great fun to see all the tangles first revealed, and then resolved! 

My only objection (apart from the name Weevil, which is just too awful a name for me) was that one of the characters starts as a really nasty bit of work, and I think Ani forgives her too readily.  But Ani is a generous sort, so it's not too out of character.

just as an aside (not a criticism--there's no magic here, so readers who want all the bells and whistles in their fantasy reading might feel a bit let down...

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

is a very good one to offer the kid on the higher end of tweendom (13-14) who is just starting to plunge into YA


  1. I really want to read her! I must make time to check her out.

  2. So glad you enjoyed this. I loved The False Prince and am looking forward to reading this one too.

  3. I have a copy of The False Prince that I got from Sync or some other promotion. I am hoping to listen to it before the end of the year. If it is good then I will check this one out also.

  4. I loved The False Prince but then couldn't get through the second book in the series. Is this one a standalone? I like the sounds of it, and I know I like her writing.


Free Blog Counter

Button styles