Loss by Jackie Morse Kessler
Posted by Krystal Larson at 4:00 AM Thursday, March 22, 2012
This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews.Fifteen-year-old Billy Ballard is the kid that everyone picks on, from the school bullies to the teachers. But things change drastically when Death tells Billy he must stand in as Pestilence, the White Rider of the Apocalypse. Now armed with a Bow that allows him to strike with disease from a distance, Billy lashes out at his tormentors...and accidentally causes an outbreak of meningitis. Horrified by his actions, Billy begs Death to take back the Bow. For that to happen, says Death, Billy must track down the real White Rider—who is lost in his memories.
In his search, Billy travels through White Rider’s life: from ancient Phrygia, where the man called King Mita agrees to wear the White Rider’s Crown, to Sherwood Forest, where Pestilence figures out how to cheat Death; from the docks of Alexandria, where cartons of infested grain are being packed onto a ship that will carry the plague, to the Children’s Crusade in France—all the way to what may be the end of the world. When Billy finally finds the White Rider, the teen convinces the man to return to the real world.
But now the insane White Rider plans to unleash something awful on humanity—something that could make the Black Death look like a summer cold. Billy has a choice: he can live his life and pretend he doesn’t know what’s coming, or he can challenge the White Rider for his Crown. Does one bullied teenager have the strength to stand his ground—and the courage to save the world?
This is one of those books that deals with a difficult topic, but manages to make that topic applicable in such a way that teens/young adults will maintain interest and understand. Billy Ballard is bullied. The former sentence is alliterative and incredibly sad. He doesn't fight back or defend himself, but takes most of the bullying in stride. Adults are even sometimes around when he is bullied, but do nothing...an unfortunate fact in many cases. The reader will connect to Billy and feel terrible on his behalf. He doesn't have the easiest time at home either. His grandfather is slowly succumbing to Alzheimer's disease and the effects of the disease often hurt Billy as well.
When Billy learns he has been more or less tricked into being the White Rider, he has no choice but to accept his fate yet again. However, the more Billy delves into his new role, including his sudden ability to experience certain events in the far past, the more Billy gains his own strength and inner voice. He also learns that he balances out the other Riders. Balance is a strong theme in this book and may play a valuable lesson for the reader if the reader pays close attention.
Billy's character is wonderfully developed. The reader will form and maintain a connection to his character throughout the novel. The other characters, though mainly secondary, are interesting as well. The author has that knack that makes the reader interested in the other characters as well. The author distributes background information at just the right moments in the novel as well. For example, right when the reader is beginning to feel less than sympathetic to the White Rider, she gives the reader a glimpse into his sad past. The Riders of the Apocalypse is a wonderful series that covers difficult and often hidden topics that young adults/adults/teens would enjoy.
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