Review of Jennifer Nielsen’s The Scourge

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The Scourge by Jennifer Nielsen

Even though this book is called The Scourge, it is anything but. For fans of Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince, they will find a similar love in Ani and Weevil the stars of her latest dystopian middle grade novel. And if you haven’t checked out The False Prince, I highly recommend it alongside The Scourge.

The Scourge follows the story of Ani Mells, a bit of a troublemaker, who finds herself captured by the governor’s wardens. When her best friend Weevil tries to rescue her, the wardens arrest him as well. In prison, the governor has Ani tested for the scourge, a deadly plague that is ravaging her country. When her tests surprisingly (or not) come back positive, she is sent to a colony where scourge victims live out their remaining days before death. Weevil manages to weasel himself onto the boat to the colony alongside his friend despite remaining untested from the scourge.

When the two arrive at the colony, the wardens immediately try to break their friendship. Much to the wardens’ dislike, it only strengthens their bond and leads the two of them to discover that things on the colony aren’t as they originally seemed. The wardens never manage get the scourge despite being in direct contact with victims and even more troubling, people at the colony are disappearing. Ani vows to figure out what’s happening at the colony before she or Weevil dies of the scourge or the wardens tear them apart for good.

While the plot of The Scourge was enjoyable to follow and had a satisfying ending, it was sometimes predictable at points. There were good hints as to what twists were coming, but it was fun to see how they played out. Despite the somewhat predictable plot, it was the characters that really made this story fantastic. These characters leapt of the page and frequently had me laughing out loud while reading. Ani and Weevil’s friendship is amazingly strong and it’s such a fun relationship to watch grow as the story progresses. Where Ani finds trouble at nearly every turn, Weevil often grounds her and sometimes manages to create additional trouble before the pair finds their way out of it. It was a true joy to follow their story and watch their characters change and become stronger as a result of their experiences.

For anyone who loves a little mischief or characters who don’t take the world for how it’s presented to them, I highly recommend The Scourge. This is a great book for middle grade readers and adults alike, and is sure to keep everyone’s attention through to the final page.

The Scourge is out now and can be found at bookstores and online.

**This review was of an ARC of The Scourge generously provided by Scholastic

4.5 / 5.0