Review of ‘Plague’ by Jean Ure

Re-reading this slim YA novel was an uncanny experience, as it seems quite prescient. It was first published in 1989 by Methuen with the title Plague 99, apparently set in the year 1999. For the reissued Mammoth edition in 2001, it was just Plague.

The story is focused on two characters. Fran has just been on a sixth-formers camp, away from the benefits of civilisation, returning to find the roads empty and London under quarantine. Shahid is stuck in a block of flats, watching re-runs of old films, waiting for his father to die of a horrifying illness. Fran and Shahid, along with another teenager, Harriet, eventually find each other and set out to navigate this dramatically altered world.

It’s an edgy, unsettling read, engaging with British society’s preoccupations of the time: the fear of nuclear war, criticism of the Thatcher government, race riots, urban decay. The events in the book are realistically portrayed, with cities under lockdown, the hospitals unable to cope, people barricading themselves at home in front of the TV, surrounded by stockpiled tins. It’s very much a worst case scenario of what could have happened in the UK (and could still happen). The only detail I thought was too far-out, was the government putting surgical masks through everyone’s doors, as if there were endless supplies.

I liked the teenage characters, who seemed mature and maybe a bit too nice (that must be why I liked them!), although they perhaps spoke a little more formally than real teenagers would. For a YA novel written over thirty years ago, it hasn’t dated too badly and is still a good read. Two sequels were published, but I was never interested in reading them.

9 thoughts on “Review of ‘Plague’ by Jean Ure”

  1. Ooooh wowwww this sounds interesting! Also sounds like quite an intense read! And like you, I like β€˜nice’ teens πŸ˜€

    1. Yes it was intense, I must have liked it when I first read it, because it stayed on my shelf (when most of my YA books didn’t earn a place!) It’s interesting for certain, maybe slightly outdated culturally as you might expect. Nice teens are the best kind of teens πŸ˜€

  2. Sounds pretty good! It’s interesting to read these somewhat “prescient” novels, isn’t it? I read the apocalyptic FIND ME by Laura van den Berg, which was a little spooky, given how much it looked like these pandemic days.

    1. I thought it was quite a high standard for a teen book and I’m sure that when I first read it, I never thought this would actually happen! I’ve seen several plague-themed novels around lately but I have to say, I wouldn’t deliberately seek them out.

  3. Woww! This one sounds soo awesome! 😍 I am always discovering books on your blog that, I am pretty sure, I won’t find anyone else talking about – AND THAT’S WHY I LOVE YOUR REVIEWS SOO MUCH! And this one was no exception! 😍😍😍

    1. Thanks! Yes I have what you might call an eclectic taste πŸ˜‰ You never know what I will be reviewing next!

    1. Thanks! Yes, I feel that it could still be enjoyed by teens today, with maybe a slight update of the language.

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