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A Plague Year

Review

A Plague Year

Edward Bloor has crafted a powerful page turner about a small town facing the siege of methamphetamine and the teens who fight back.

"Edward Bloor has crafted a powerful page turner."
Tom Coleman began a journal on Monday, September 10, 2001 as part of a school assignment. His life is divided between his studies and his unpaid work at the Food Giant his dad runs, but he does squeeze in some PSAT preparation. When his story begins, he is viewing a robbery at the Food Giant and realizes an employee is in trouble. He acts quickly to stop it before anyone gets hurt, and then heads to school.
 
This opening begins a pattern for Tom, though of course his life changes with everyone else after 9/11. His small Pennsylvania town is not far from Shanksville, where United Flight 93 crashes after the heroic passengers take it over. But Tom is undergoing another change. His mother wants him and his older sister to attend an afterschool drug discussion group, as addiction runs in his family and his sister already has one marijuana-related arrest. Tom and Lilly are surprised to find that their estranged wrong-side-of-the-tracks cousin has joined the meeting. Arthur is trying to stop the pattern of drugs that has affected his family.
 
The counseling group is run by Catherine, a counselor from a local university. Her beautiful daughter, Wendy, is there, and soon Tom is trying to get her attention. When she invites him to a party on the “right” side of town, Tom discovers that ugliness can be found under the surface anywhere. The group begins taking field trips to Shanksville to see the crash site and other powerful locations as the teens struggle to envision their futures outside of their dying small town among the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
 
Tom is more determined than ever to go to college and tries new schemes to make money. He travels to Florida over Thanksgiving weekend with the estranged relatives to sell Christmas trees, and sees how citizens are forced to resort to extreme measures to survive in his town. More and more people are stealing Sudafed and other over-the-counter items to make drugs from the store, and Tom sees the effects when they become like zombies in every way. He and his fellow group members decide to fight back by forming a group at a local church and collecting clothing and food for the ill people. At one meeting, the teens even give the clothes off their backs. Several of their families are now affected by drug abuse, and Tom and his friends learn about some who have lost their homes or just disappeared.
 
The darkness of the book’s theme is blended well with the overall darkness of life in this country after the 2001 terrorist attacks, and Tom is a hero who will stay with you. While there is not much hope for those involved with methamphetamine, the efforts of Tom and his crew will inspire you as much as those in this all-too-realistic fictional story.
 

Reviewed by Amy Alessio on November 21, 2011

A Plague Year
by Edward Bloor