To those who yearn for an adventure, Jennifer A. Nielsen’s novel The Scourge is the book for you. Packed with exhilarating action, mystery, and a hint of romance, The Scourge will quench your thirst for a wild story with great characters, setting, plot line, and writing.
To begin, The Scourge has many important characters – the most important being the protagonist, Ani Mells. With her strong, courageous attitude, Ani is exceptional at leading and standing up for what she believes in, but sometimes her leadership can be faulty. In those cases it is Weevil, her best friend and partner in crime, who comes to her aid, helps her push through her mistakes, and ultimately helps her succeed. Like Ani, Weevil is strong, but he is a bit more daring. He would sacrifice anything for his friends, including his own safety and life. Ani and Weevil come from similar backgrounds – both belong to the river people and share a deep understanding for each other’s problems.
The novel starts in the land of Keldan, which is deeply troubled and divided. The Scourge, a once dormant disease, has arisen again in Keldan, causing great fear. In addition, there is a great divide between the townsfolk and the river people. The townsfolk often blame the river people for their problems, including the sudden outbreak.
The leader of Keldan, Governor Felling, fears for her people and decides to quarantine the sick on an island far from Keldan. Those who are sent to Attic Island are said to live out their final days there; no one brought onto the island has ever returned. After a series of thrilling events, Ani and Weevil are captured and taken for testing to see if they have the Scourge. Weevil manages to escape, but Ani gets tested and the results are positive. Before she gets sent to Attic Island, however, Weevil reappears and fakes that he’s sick so Ani doesn’t have to go to Attic Island and die without him. From then on, the rest of the story is full of mystery and action as Ani and Weevil attempt to uncover the secrets of Attic Island and the Scourge.
The Scourge deals with complex and challenging themes throughout, which make the book very intriguing. A corrupted government, difficulty with friendships, and self-discovery all add to the book’s charisma. The plot line and ideas are really unique and one of the main reasons that I loved this book.
The novel is beautifully written, with lots of description and outstanding word choice. The Scourge is also the type of book that never seems to end – a good thing, in this case. At one point in the reading, I had just uncovered a big piece of the plot, and I instantly thought, “This book must be ending soon.” To my surprise, it was nowhere near finished. In fact, I still had about a quarter of the book to go.
A con for this excellent novel is the fact that the book is a stand-alone novel. The story is too good not to have a sequel, so I was bummed that the story won’t continue. I understand that some readers out there do love singular novels because they seem rare these days – perhaps I’m just a series type of person.
Jennifer Nielsen’s great writing keeps her novel intriguing, and the plotline got me hooked into the story. There were countless occasions when I couldn’t put the book down because of how captivating the story was. Nielsen did a terrific job making her characters contrast and, at the same time, complement each other. Weevil and Ani are such a good pair; readers can feel the depth of their friendship and relate to it. This book is an excellent read that I would be thrilled to experience again.
In conclusion, the characters and plot of the The Scourge are immensely compelling, and I absolutely adored the contrast between the characters and the complexity of the themes. Even though the book has some ups and downs, it’s an amazing read for anyone who loves adventure. Take the opportunity to read The Scourge and see what it has to offer. I swear you will fall in love.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.