Monday, March 12, 2012
MG/YA Historical Fiction: Yesterday's Dead by Pat Bourke
Date: April 2012
Acquired: from LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book in return for an honest review.)
Reading time: one day
From GoodReads: Thirteen-year-old Meredith yearns to become a teacher but must leave school to help support her family. To find the best paying job for a young girl of her class, she travels to the city to work as household help in a doctor’s home. From the start, her life is made difficult by the cantankerous and prickly butler, and confrontations with Maggie, the doctor’s spoiled thirteen-year-old daughter. As the deadly Spanish Flu sweeps across the city, members of the household fall ill one by one. With the doctor working night and day at the hospital, only Meredith, Maggie, and Jack, Maggie's handsome older brother, are left to care for them. Every day the newspapers’ lists of “Yesterday’s Dead” add to Meredith’s growing fears. When Jack becomes gravely ill, Meredith must stop fighting with Maggie so they can work together to save him. As Meredith wrestles with questions of duty and responsibility, she opens the door to a future that she thought had been closed forever.
My review: Yesterday's Dead promptly picks up readers and drops them into WWI-era Canada, right before the Spanish Flu hits Toronto. Meredith is a likable character - young, intelligent, outspoken, caught in a negative situation, but not too rebellious. She suits both the time period and the readers' expectations of her behavior. Pat Bourke makes real to younger readers the terror of being struck with an epidemic little understood by the public at the time. The somewhat unusual position in which Meredith is caught at the outbreak is perfectly plausible given the plot set-up beforehand, and it accentuates the chaos and worry surrounding the epidemic. I found some of the characters to be a bit stereotypical, like the rude, spoiled rich girl who undergoes a conversion and the mean guy who, too late, is revealed to have tenderer secrets - but I suppose that, in a children's book, these stereotypes aren't all that bad to include. Yesterday's Dead comes out overall as a quick, highly informative historical read, perfect for its intended audience and for others of us as well.
I love the covers for the book! (This one came from the publisher's website; I'm assuming it's the finished copy.) Not only are the figures in historically-appropriate dress, the backgrounds are actual newspapers from the time.