By Caroline Cooney
Walking around New York City was what Mitty Blake did best. He loved the city, and even after 9/11, he always felt safe. Mitty was a carefree guy–he didn’t worry about terrorists or blackouts or grades or anything, which is why he was late getting started on his Advanced Bio report.
Mitty does feel a little pressure to hand something in–if he doesn’t, he’ll be switched out of Advanced Bio, which would be unfortunate since Olivia’s in Advanced Bio. So he considers it good luck when he finds some old medical books in his family’s weekend house that focus on something he could write about. But when he discovers an old envelope with two scabs in one of the books, the report is no longer about the grade–it’s about life and death. His own.
*Starred Review* Gr. 6-9. In top, utterly terrifying form, Cooney leads a gregarious New York City teenager to a century-old sample of smallpox scabs. As dedicated to avoiding study as he is to getting closer to classmate Olivia, Mitty is oblivious to the danger he, she, and everyone else in the crowded city is in from his possible exposure to this hyper-contagious, utterly devastating disease--until he starts looking into smallpox for a school project. Drawing from several medical resources, which she lists at the end, Cooney lays out the illness's history and symptoms in precise, gruesome detail as a horrified Mitty writhes on the horns of a dilemma: Is the virus still active? Can he find a way to prevent an epidemic if it is? Should he tell the authorities, and look like a total dork if it isn't? Then, in a heartstopping twist, Mitty is kidnapped by terrorists intent on using him as a biological weapon. Readers won't soon forget either the profoundly disturbing premise of this page-turner or its likable, ultimately heroic slacker protagonist. John Peters
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From Amazon Books 11/11/11