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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Florence is not a safe or healthy place to live in 1347. Food was scarce and the black plague was decimating the population. Everyone was scared; they were led to believe it was the end of the world. For Maria, it may as well have been the end of the world. Starvation and disease were taking away everyone she loved and cared for. When only her father and herself were left, they escaped the city together in the hopes of finding refuge in Milan. On the way, Maria’s father succumbs to the plague, and Maria is left on her own to find her way. With hunger and fear wreaking havoc, highwaymen abound and there is danger everywhere. Will Maria find her way to Milan safely? Will she ever see her loved ones again?
Natasha Deen’s coming-of-age, historical fiction story, Maria and the Plague: A Black Death Survival Story, is a powerful look at a difficult time in history, not so different than what we are going through now. The similarities between then and now are startling. Fear is rampant, but Maria, the strong, resilient protagonist, manages to make her way forward and comes out on the other end of the plague’s misery a stronger, more caring person. The plot follows Maria’s hard life in Florence, the fear of the impending doom brought on by the plague, the escape, and the final leg of her journey to safety. Young readers will learn about a difficult time in history and how important it was then, and still is today, to remain positive and strive to be the best person you can be, regardless of the circumstances. And, throughout all her difficulties, Maria learns to be compassionate and caring of others. An intense, though sometimes unsettling historical narrative.