In the 1300s England, fifteen-year-old Nell has served as an attendant to Princess Joan since Nell’s parents died of the plague two years before. She also protects her nine-year-old brother, George, who is simple but also wise in unexpected ways. Nell bears an uncanny resemblance to Princess Joan. When the princess dies of a new plague outbreak while on a journey to meet her future husband, her brother, the Black Prince, hatches a plot to pass Nell off as the princess and marry her to a Spanish prince.
Nell has no choice but to go along while she plots an escape. She finds unexpected allies in her quest to flee the Black Prince and make her way back to what she believes is safety in Bordeaux.
The Plague by Joanne Dahme captures the dark mood and superstitions of Europeans during this time when the plague carried off so much of the population. The sickness had no favorites, and it infected young, old, rich, poor, healthy and weak just the same. People believed it was caused by bad air, and no one paid much attention to the rats that swarmed among them. Nell’s is a tense story against this backdrop of whole nations under stress. Mother-daughter book clubs can talk about the historical time period as well as Nell’s reaction to the predicament she finds herself in. I recommend The Plague for groups with girls aged 12 to 16.