The Scourge- Jennifer A Nielsen

Synopsis: When a plague isn’t all that kills…

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 the Scourge—and the governor’s wardens—long enough to make their escape and expose the cruel plan?



Ani falls out of a tree and is pecked at. Ani and Weevil are both kidnapped; Weevil is knocked unconscious. Mentions and worries about head injuries. The doctor slices Ani to insert the drug. The Wardens harass the River People. A woman almost drowns, a character is locked in a cage and almost endure a beating. Threats, and a plot to kill Ani. A character is beaten if Ani makes a mistake on a treadmill she has to tread. Ani is slapped. There’s a struggle when lightning explodes a tree and injures characters. Ani is thrown to snakes, which she burns. Several fights, people are taken as slaves, cannons blasted as a threat and two characters were beaten and sentenced to a hanging.



Mentions of someone kidnapping a woman and falling in love. The River people are told to come from the union between a mermaid and a farmer. Two characters are more than friends, secretly, and kiss. Mention of a proposal and the separation of fiancee’s as a result of the feud between town and River people. Ani and Weevil kiss.



To test for the Scourge, characters are given a drug- to drink, or inserted through a cut into the bloodstream. There’s a weed that helps alleviate the pain- some characters seem to use too much. Another weed is poisonous, and a character accidentally takes it. A plague is stemmed from that poison and given to many people.



Mentions of uprisings; the governor is not well liked. Ani is accused of stealing and lying.






A priest prayed in church for Ani to be healed of the evil spirit that made her sing so horribly. An uttering of may the gods help me.


Overall feel: Although written for a middle-school audience, teens will enjoy it too. Ani is a funny character, who manages to outsmart the enemy, to save her country, and to get into bad scrapes as a result of her antics. A book that belongs to both the Tween and the YA category, the humour and excitement will not disappoint those who enjoy a story steeped in a plague, political unrest, and a spunky girl who changed it all.

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