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.
I fell in love with this series when Houghton Mifflin randomly sent me the first part, Hunger, shortly after it came out in the fall of 2010. It was a heavy hitter with heart, and I loved the fantasy element that Jackie brought to the issues. It was a terrific meshing of story with major teen issues, making it very readable despite tackling serious subject matter. I was even more impressed when I read Rage, and found myself in tears by the end. To say I was eagerly awaiting Loss is a bit of an understatement.
In each of the Riders of the Apocalypse books Jackie takes a broken teen and shows them redemption through balancing the bad and the good in the world by making them a rider of something close to their inner turmoil. The girl battling an eating disorder becomes Famine, the girl who cuts herself becomes War, and the boy who's bullied and desperately trying to deal with his bad home situation becomes Pestilence. Their struggle as a rider becomes the way they find redemption in their personal life.
Loss deals with bullying and Alzheimer's, Billy's life is a disaster at school where he's constantly picked on, but there's no relief at home where he has to help care for his beloved Grandfather who's being ravaged by Alzheimer's. The story line with his grandfather, like the story about Missy's cat was something I could relate to perfectly, as my own beloved grandfather wasted away similarly. Even his grandfathers prophetic words, in a moment of lucidity, reminded me of my grandfather, who also had a lucid moment of emotional depth the very last time we spoke before he died.
"You find you way," said his grandfather, shaking a finger at him. "You find your way, and you come back home."
Unlike the previous two books in the series, Loss also had an intriguing background story of the previous Pestilence. The mystery surrounding the "Ice Cream Man" was a fascinating addition to the story and made me wonder even more about the other previous Riders.
Jackie's gift for telling a story and making it personal remains her gift in the Riders of the Apocalypse. Who would think I would have strongly protective feelings for War, Famine, and Pestilence? And yet I deeply care what happens to these teens. But I think the best part of this series is not only how touched I am by each of the stories, but that contributions from the sale of each of the books goes to very worthy charities. Loss makes contributions to the Alzheimer's Association, one that's very close to my heart. I love the idea that the joy of a book can also contribute to a greater good. As if I need more reasons to buy books.
Loss, By Jackie Morse Kessler
Published by Graphia March 20th, 2012
Pre-order Loss from Amazon
Check out my review of Hunger
Check out my review of Rage
Jackie has kindly agreed to stop by and talk a little about picking the charities for her books.
Give A Little Bit
By Jackie Morse Kessler
I knew from the moment I’d begun writing Hunger, the first book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series, that I would donate a portion of proceeds to the National Eating Disorders Association. Hunger is about an anorexic teenage girl who becomes Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and the book takes a hard-hitting look at eating disorders. I’d planned on donating to NEDA because I’m a former bulimic, and the more we can do to raise awareness of eating disorders—what they are, and what they’re not—the more likely it is that those who are suffering from them can get the help and support that they need.
When I was working on Rage, which looked at self-injury, a friend suggested that I consider donating a portion of proceeds to the organization To Write Love On Her Arms. I looked into TWLOHA and loved what I found. They do great work, helping people who are suffering from depression, addition, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts.
LOSS was different for me. Even though at its heart, it’s a book about how a bullied teenage boy learns to stand his ground, there’s an important subplot about coping when a loved one has Alzheimer’s. This is a personal issue for me; Alzheimer’s runs in my family, and it’s a horrible, horrible disease that robs people of their dignity and steals their minds. Its effects on those who are caregivers for their loved ones are almost unthinkable.
The positive news is that researchers are working toward a cure. And that’s why I’m proud to donate a portion of LOSS proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Association . Maybe there won’t be a cure in my lifetime—but I hope there will be one for my kids and their kids.
A portion of proceeds of Breath, the final book in the Riders series, will also go to a specific charity. Which one? Stay tuned. :)
To all of you who have purchased a copy of any of my books: thank you for helping to make a difference.
Jackie will be awarding one random commenter a Loss cover Poster (please leave a blog link, email address, or twitter handle so I can contact the winner)! But even better yet each of the poster winners from the Blog Tour will be entered into a giveaway to win all three of the Riders of the Apocalypse books, signed, AND a character named after them in Breath, the last book of the series! So make sure to say something nice!
Make sure to stop at all the other Tour Stops for more chances to win.
Also, I'll be giving out one finished copy of Loss to one lucky winner in either the US or Canada. Just fill in the form below to enter.