Author: Jackie Morse Kessler
Publication: Graphia; Original edition (March 20, 2012)
Description: Fifteen-year-old Billy Ballard is the kid that everyone picks on. 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, and stop him from unleashing something awful on humanity—something that could make the Black Plague look like a summer cold. Does one bullied teenager have the strength to stand his ground—and the courage to save the world?
My Thoughts: I think this was my favorite of all of the Riders of the Apocalypse books that I have read. Billy Ballard is the victim of persistent and sustained bullying and just wants to get through the day. When Death comes calling and says he has to stand in as Pestilence, Billy feels totally unqualified and out of his depth. But he made a promise when he was five-years-old to a man who has haunted his nightmares ever since and he is stuck with the job. The job is made even more difficult by the fact that Pestilence is insane.
We see the history of Pestilence who began life as King Mita of Phrygia and who took up the crown of Pestilence upon the death of his beloved young daughter. This Pestilence has served for thousands of years and the horrors he has seen and caused have made him insane. He is determined to end the world once and for all. Billy has to dive into Pestilence's memories and face his own fears before the world can be saved.
I love the language in this story. The descriptions made me feel like I was there with Billy which was not exactly a good thing when he was being tormented by the bullies at his school. The only downside that I could find for this story was that Death didn't make enough appearances. There was less of the quirky humor that Death brought to the earlier books in the series.
This book deals with real life issues like bullying and like caring for a grandparent with Alzheimer's. I thought Billy's feelings about his grandfather were very realistic as he switched between remembering the grandfather who was such a central part of his childhood and resenting the responsibility for caring for this sometimes violent stranger his grandfather had become. I agreed with him when he felt that he had too much irresponsibility for a fifteen-year-old. I also really resented the mother who didn't see that her son was being bullied and the school system that didn't see it either.
This was an excellent story about a young man who doesn't let an impossible situation defeat him and who struggles with both grace and courage. I thought that the ending was realistic and not a typical "they all lived happily ever after." I recommend this story to all young adults.
Billy took a deep breath and started to get dressed, telling himself that nothing too bad would happen today.I received the ARC through the Amazon Vine Program in exchange for an honest review. You can buy your copy here.
Liar, whispered a small voice in his head.
That was okay; Billy was used to being called names, even when he was the one doing it to himself.