The Scourge is a YA dystopian novel set in a world where the inhabitants are divided into Groundlings, who live on the ground, and Lofties, who live in the trees. An interesting idea, but not sufficiently developed. Apparently, the Lofties depend on the Groundlings only for water, and although agricultural activities are not discussed for either group, surely the Lofties need more than water. The Groundlings depend on the Lofties for protection from the scourge, zombie-like creatures who terrify both groups. From the safety of the trees, the Lofties can fire their arrows at the creatures, but the Groundlings have to retreat to a cave because the Lofties won't let them into the trees.
The balance seems exceptionally uneven; the only explanation given is tradition, which doesn't really clear up the details of why their living arrangements are not more cooperative and codependent in areas other than water and protection. So...while I liked the idea of two different societies divided by their dwelling places, the relationship between them felt sketchy and indefinite.
Plot: Fennel is a sightless Groundling, the Water Bearer, who is the only one able to move among the creatures safely. Her "Keeper" is a Loftie named Peree, who shoots any creature that may become threatening as the blind girl hauls water for both groups. Why only one Loftie as a protector? Shouldn't all the Lofties be active in defense of the Water Bearer who provides water to sustain both societies during times when the scourge are present?
The first part of the novel was intriguing, and I liked the building of trust between Fennel and Peree. The latter part of the novel didn't interest me as much, but does give the explanation of the scourge. The concluding chapters also unravel some of unusual relationships among families and other secrets among both Groundlings and Lofties, but ending feels abrupt.
I think YA readers will enjoy the novel, especially the relationship that develops between the Water Bearer and her Keeper.
Finalist for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Award (YA Category)
YA/Dystopian. 2012. Print version: 243 pages.