14. August 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

A Plague Year by Edward Bloor, 296 pages, read by Courtney, on 08/09/2012

Tom’s story begins on September 10th, 2001. This is the first day he and his sister Lilly join their after-school drug counseling group at the behest of their parents, who feel that both kids are genetically predisposed to addiction. The topic on everyone’s mind at the meeting is the appearance of meth in their small Pennsylvania community. The next day, the planes crash in New York, DC and in a field near Tom’s town. Bolstered by his English teacher, Tom begins a journal of the events that take place in the year following 9/11. The year has been described as a “plague year”, similar to those throughout history. The plague this time is meth. Tom is seeing the evidence of it everywhere in his town, from the the rash of thefts at his father’s grocery store, to the number of “meth zombies” walking the streets. Tom, his cousin and his sister continue to remain die-hard members of the drug counseling group and strive to find ways to help fight the plague that has pervaded their town.
It’s an interesting story, particularly since it is juxtaposed against the tragedy of 9/11. What 9/11 has to do with the overall storyline, however, is still unclear to me. Triggers for using drugs are discussed and 9/11 is mentioned as an event that could be a trigger, but it is also clear that meth has already invaded rural Pennsylvania. As the story continues, the theme of 9/11 fades into the past as Tom watches his town sink into ruin. The counseling group serves a device to explain the drug itself, but becomes a strange source of tension when the counselor’s PhD husband is exposed as a pot-smoker. I can’t help but be a little confused at the two drugs being discussed as though they were on the same level. I understand the kids being upset at potential hypocrisy, but meth is so much worse than any plant-based drug and so addictive/deadly that comparing it to pot might lead some kids to assume one is as bad as the other (or, conversely, that if one isn’t that bad, then the other likely isn’t either). These details make the book feel less cohesive and more naive. The emphasis and then loss of the 9/11 theme feels disjointed and potentially unnecessary, except for proximity (both in time and place). I wanted so much more for this book, but it ultimately had too many flaws for me.

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