Pandemic, by Yvonne Ventresca, (July 2016, Sky Pony Press), $9.99, ISBN: 9781510703902
Recommended for ages 12+
This is the paperback release of the 2015 SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner for the Atlantic region.
Liliana used to be an outgoing, top student. Until the whole thing with Mr. B happened; now, she’s withdrawn, her grades have plummeted, and her outlook has changed from a glass half full to the glass being smashed on the floor. Only a few people know what happened, and she’s lost some friends over it, but Lil has bigger problems right now: there’s a fast-spreading flu going through her New Jersey town, and friends and neighbors are getting really sick. Her medical journalist father is in Delaware covering the disease’s early stages, and her mother, on business in Hong Kong, is unable to get a flight back home when everything hits. Lil is on her own, and she’s terrified. As the disease marches through her world, she’s got to reach deep down inside herself and become the person she once was to survive.
Pandemic is a good read. It moves fast, has good characters, and puts them in a scary situation that’s all too real for a lot of us watching the news these days. Lil is on a journey without realizing it. Readers don’t know her before the incident with a teacher, but we see her go from a withdrawn, depressed teen to a strong young woman who can think, organize, and act to keep herself and the people around her as safe as she can, all while facing terrifying odds. I love a good, strong heroine, and was really appreciative that Yvonne Ventresca gives readers a take-charge main character who’s flawed but recognizes the need to push forward.
If you know readers who love a good plague story (minus zombies here), add this one to your shelves. For readers who want the gripping lead-up to dystopia, but minus the government-run aftermath.
Pair this with your cataclysm books: Chris Weitz’s The Young World series, Em Garner’s Contaminated books, and Lex Thomas’ Quarantine series are some good starts (and make Pandemic look like everyone’s getting off easy).
Edited to add: Holy cow, I sent this to publish too soon. Yvonne Ventresca’s author page has links to a Pandemic Pinterest board and an educator’s guide. Make sure to check it out!