Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Billy Ballard is bullied daily. He hates his life because of the bullies and because he has to take care of his grandfather who has Alzheimer's. His mother is constantly working and tired, so the responsibility often falls on him. Then, everything changes when Death tells Billy he must take up the white cloak and become Pestilence. He doesn't want to, but the Bow that unleashes disease follows him. He accidentally lashes out at his tormenters, spreading meningitis at his school. He is horrified that he would stoop to that level and basically become a bully as well. He begs Death for a way out. Pestilence is still alive, but comatose. He must awaken Pestilence to take up his job again or be doomed to do the job instead.
I really liked this novel. Billy is a normal teen who is tormented every single day. I'm sure everyone reading it has at least one memory of being bullied or are currently being bullied. It's frustrating to know that many kids are in the same position as him and many teachers stand by and let the bullying happen. His mother puts a lot of responsibility on him to take care of his grandfather who has Alzheimer's. He doesn't want to bring people to his house and he doesn't have much time to enjoy being a teen. The Alzheimer's makes his beloved grandfather into a stranger to him who can become belligerent or even violent. They can no longer share memories and his grandfather is essentially not the same person that Billy grew up with. The realistic portrayal of his life is the triumph of this book. I just wanted to give Billy a hug and tell him that his life won't be that way forever.
The other thing I really loved about this book was Pestilence. Billy goes into his consciousness to get him to wake up and do his job and views his memories and experiences. His history is inspired by a mix of myth and folklore and I totally nerded out while reading. Both the King Midas tale and the story of Robin Hood were retold and mixed together in a dynamic and interesting way. It was unexpected and it made the story much more memorable and enjoyable.
Loss is a wonderful mix of harsh reality and myths and legends. I had no idea it was part of a series, which may shed more light on some of the minor characters. I would definitely read the rest of the series and eagerly await for more books from Jackie Morse Kessler.
My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins