First Lines: On Friday, Mr. Lynch walked around the classroom making sure everybody had written down the due date in their assignment books. Luckily, he started at the far side, giving Mitty Blake time to whisper to his best friend, “Due date for what?”
I discovered this book on accident…sorta. My fellow teacher and I were searching our book room at school to find books that we could teach soon. We’re both pretty new, so we haven’t read many of the books there. But she pointed out this one to me and told me that a coworker of ours had taught this book for years before she moved from 7th to 8th grade. I thought it looked interesting (better than Call of the Wild, at least).
Mitty Blake, a carefree slacker, always feels pretty safe and content with life, even in post-9/11 New York City. Sure, there’s still the lingering fear that terrorists may try to strike again, but he’d rather be watching college basketball than worrying about something like that. And he’d rather be doing anything than researching for a paper on infectious diseases for his Advanced Bio class. But, if he doesn’t had something in, he’ll be forced to drop the class, and that means less time with Olivia. So when Mitty finds old medical books in his family’s library, he takes it as a sign. When he finds an envelope with scabs inside the book, he doesn’t think too much of it. But those scabs contain a disease called Variola major, a disease that, if it spreads, could decimate New York City. Suddenly, this isn’t about passing Bio…it’s about life and death.
Right from the beginning, I loved Mitty, which is totally ironic. Mitty is a complete slacker and the kind of clueless student that I hate having in class. (You know the type; the class has been working on a project for weeks and yet this kid is completely oblivious to the whole thing.) He could major in Procrastination and minor in Homework Avoidance. But he’s endearing and charming, all the same. Even though I kind of wanted to hate him for his habits, he was sweet.
The only downside to his character is that he tended to make stupid decisions. Maybe it’s just me, but he seemed to sometimes lack common sense. For example, why would you touch scabs period, let alone scabs that could have anything to do with an infectious disease?
The plot was really cool, though the pacing could have been better. I loved that Mitty was researching this disease (which, if you’re unfamiliar with “Variola major,” it’s smallpox). It was really gripping as he started to get into all of this stuff, but then after that it seemed to drag. I kept waiting and waiting for this one particular thing to happen and it never did…and never did…and never did. But I will add that there was a delightful twist at the end that I did not see coming.
The setting of New York 3 years after 9/11 really also impacted the story. I mean, even now we’re hyperaware of terrorists and everything, but it seems like it was just as bad if not worse in this setting. Because 9/11 was still fresh in their minds and they were almost waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Overall, really interesting. Pacing is really my only complaint.