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On Sale: December 10, 2008
Pages: 224 | ISBN: 978-0-307-48305-8
Published by : Laurel Leaf RH Childrens Books
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Mitty Blake loves New York City, and even after 9/11 he's always felt safe. He's a carefree guy, which is why he's late getting started on his advanced bio report. He'd much rather watch the game or hang out than do research on infectious diseases just to get a good grade. So he considers it good luck when he finds some old medical books in his family's weekend house that focus on something he could write about. But when he discovers an envelope containing two scabs in one of the books, the report is no longer about the grade--it's about life and death. His own.

From the author of The Face on the Milk Carton, Caroline B. Cooney has crafted a bioterrorism thriller that is hard to put down.


Chapter OneOn Friday, Mr. Lynch walked around the classroom making sure everybody had written down the due date in their assignment books. Luckily, he started at the far side, giving Mitty Blake time to whisper to his best friend, "Due date for what?""Notes for the term paper," whispered Derek. "The one you've been working on for four weeks?"Mitty hadn't even chosen a topic yet.But Mr. Lynch had been teaching for years. He had encountered many Mittys. So although the paper itself didn't have to be turned in until February 18, on this coming Monday, February 2, each student in advanced biology had to submit an outline, ten pages of notes and a bibliography including four physical books."Books?" said Mitty, stunned. He was sure this had not been mentioned before. "Mr. Lynch, nobody uses books anymore. They're useless, especially in science. Facts change too fast.""Books," repeated Mr. Lynch. "This is to prevent you people from doing a hundred percent of your research online."Mitty had done zero percent anywhere, but he had certainly planned--insofar as Mitty had plans, which he didn't--to do his research online. So he said, "Mr. Lynch, an actual book is out of date before it gets printed. Anyway, a good scientist does laboratory research.""We did laboratory research last fall, Mitty," said Mr. Lynch. "I don't recall that you threw yourself into your project. I recall that you received a passing grade only through the efforts of the rest of your team. A scientist, Mitty, has to be able to dig through the published research of others. A scientist has to grasp the background and history of things. That means books."Mitty was willing to grasp the background and history of rock music. On a slow day, he could listen to Nirvana or Pearl Jam. But the background and history of disease?Because that was the depressing topic of this assignment: infectious disease."Each of you," Mr. Lynch had said, so many weeks ago that Mitty could barely remember it, "will choose an infectious disease of plants, animals or humans. You will study the disease in history and its ancient treatments or lack of them. If the disease has a specific history for us here in New York City--for example, during the yellow fever epidemics of the 1700s, people sometimes died at the rate of three hundred per city block per day--you will cover that. Other sections of your paper: description and course of the disease, current treatments and ongoing research. Finally, if your disease has an application in bioterrorism, you will cover that also."Even Mitty had awakened briefly to the exciting possibility of bioterrorism.Derek of course had wanted to be an exception to the rules. "Can we research bioterrorism only? I want to do anthrax but specifically Ottilie Lundgren, the ninety-four-year-old woman who died of anthrax in 2001 when she opened her mail. She's FBI case number 184. It's impossible for me to use books. No book has been written about her yet. All my research has to be online." Derek warmed to a favorite topic. "I can solve her mystery. I believe everything is online now, every clue I need, and I can nail her murderer.""I would be proud of you," Mr. Lynch had said, without sarcasm, "and you may focus on Ottilie Lundgren, but all that will do is make your paper longer. You still have to include everything I described and you still must have four books. Remember, class, that I too know how to use Amazon.com. I too can pull up a title that looks useful and stick it in a bibliography without actually reading the book. I too can open up the free first chapter and find something to put in my notes. I will know if you actually read a book or if you are cheating."Mr. Lynch was one of the few teachers who admitted that even here at St. Raphael's, a Manhattan prep school for the rich and/or brilliant (Mitty fell into the first category), there was such a thing as cheating. Other teachers skirted this possibility as if it were anthrax-laced mail.Right away, rare cool African diseases like Ebola and Lassa fever had been chosen by eager students. Two other kids also wanted anthrax but promised not to invade Derek's territory by mentioning Ottilie Lundgren. As the days went by, people began discussing their topics with excitement, as if they were genuinely interested. One girl had been allowed to choose Immunization: does it or does it not cause autism? Mitty would get autism just thinking about that. Another girl really did pick a plant disease and was deep into corn blight. Olivia, whom Mitty adored, had chosen typhoid fever and was already so advanced in her research that she was using the library of Columbia University's medical school, because every other library in New York City was too limited. Mitty hadn't been inside any library in the city of New York.As soon as Mr. Lynch finished ranting, Mitty slumped down in his seat. He had perfected the technique of listening to music on his iPod while a teacher talked. It was easy if he wore long sleeves. He kept the iPod in its armband and ran the cord down his arm and into his hand. Cupping the earpiece in his palm, he would rest his head on the same hand and listen to his music. His eyes stayed fixed on his teachers, who tended to be fond of him because he seemed so interested.Mitty's main interest was music. His life plan was to become a rock concert reviewer, the world's best job, and to prepare for this career, he had to buy, listen to and memorize everything out there. He really didn't have time for term papers. He certainly didn't have time for books.Mr. Lynch extended his hand for Mitty's assignment calendar.Every fall, St. Raphael's handed these out.

From the Hardcover edition.
Caroline B. Cooney|Author Q&A

About Caroline B. Cooney

Caroline B. Cooney - Code Orange

Photo © Jane Feldman

“What more can life hold, than to know that because of your story, somebody out there has decided to read again!”—Caroline B. Cooney

Caroline B. Cooney's books have received several honors, including an IRA–CBC Children's Choice and being named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.


Award-winning author Caroline B. Cooney knows what young adults like to read. In fact, Cooney’s all-time favorite fan letter came from a 12-year-old girl who hated reading. But after being forced to read one of Cooney’s books, the girl admitted it had not been a waste of time and had even been enjoyable. “And so,” wrote the girl, “I have come to an important decision. I am writing to tell you that I have decided to read a second book.”

Caroline Cooney was born in 1947 and grew up in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. This prolific author was always ambitious, and as a youth, loved school and was involved in many different activities. Cooney was also an avid reader and recalls that series books such as The Hardy Boys and Cherry Ames were her favorites. These characters had a big influence on her life, and in fact, she says that “Cherry Ames, Student Nurse was my reason to go to nursing school in Boston later in life.”

Cooney began writing in college. She professes,“I love writing and do not know why it is considered such a difficult, agonizing profession. I love all of it, thinking up the plots, getting to know the kids in the story, their parents, backyards, pizza toppings.”

Cooney is a master of mixing spellbinding suspense with thought-provoking insight into teenagers’ lives. One of her most popular books is The Face on the Milk Carton—the gripping story of a young girl who discovers that the picture of a missing child on a milk carton is actually a picture of herself. After writing this book, Cooney received hundreds of letters from readers who were bothered by the ending. “It wasn’t that they didn’ t like the ending, it was that they wanted some kind of resolution. Some said I should have written another chapter.” However, Cooney says she liked leaving the reader worrying about the character just as they would a real person. But one day, her daughter, Sayre, had an idea for a sequel that was so good, Cooney had to write it. The book that evolved was called Whatever Happened to Janie? Continuing where that novel leaves off, Cooney explores the themes of betrayal and peer pressure in The Voice on the Radio. Concluding the Janie Quartet is What Janie Found, in which Cooney masterfully spins a suspenseful story of family secrets that will have readers captivated until the very last word.

Cooney’s novel Burning Up explores the destructive nature of hatred, the crime of indifference, and the power of accepting love and responsibility.

In The Ransom of Mercy Carter, Cooney looks at an actual historic event that had been virtually unexplored in literature for young people. During a 1704 Indian attack on the Deerfield, Massachusetts, settlement, Mercy Carter is separated from her family and taken to a Kahnawake Indian village in Canada. As she awaits ransom, she discovers that the “savages” have traditions and family life that in time become her own.

Cooney completed her Time Travel Quartet with For All Time. In her novel Goddess of Yesterday, Cooney brings ancient Greece to life through careful research and master storytelling.

Most recently Cooney's Diamonds in the Shadow was named a 2008 ALA/YALSA Quick Pick and was a nominee for the Edgar Allen Poe Awards. Her latest gripping thriller, If the Witness Lied, details how love, devotion, and forgiveness make resilience—and recovery—possible.


Born: May 10 in Geneva, New York
Education: Greenwich, CT schools and various colleges
Residence: Westbrook, CT
Children: Louisa, Sayre (rhymes with fair), Harold
Inspiration for writing: I love a good story. I love to make things up.
Favorite hobbies: I read a lot. I buy books. I'm in a library (I use several) or a bookstore almost every day because I have to be around other people's books, too. I sing in several choirs, or play the piano for them.
Favorite foods: I'm omnivorous.
Favorite books: I read series books: Cherry Ames, Student Nurse, was the reason I went to nursing school. But my favorite series, and the only one I saved, was Magic by the Lake by Edward Eager.



"Cooney's new psychologically penetrating page-turner immediately grabs readers then hangs on tight up to its satisfying conclusion."—Kirkus

"Anchored by a poignant sibling reunion, this family-drama-turned-thriller will have readers racing, heart in throat, to reach the conclusion." —Horn Book


"Crackling language and nailbiting cliffhangers provide an easy way into the novel's big ideas, transforming topics that can often seem distant and abstract into a grippingly immediate reading experience." —Starred, Publishers Weekly

“Characters from the Iliad, the Odyssey, and much of Greek tragedy make appearances in Anaxandra’ s tale, one that is as vivid as her red-gold hair. Teen readers will be mesmerized.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews

“A compulsively readable story and may well lead readers to other Greek myths.” —Starred, Publishers Weekly

“Readers will respond to the author’s candid view of friendship with its intense bonding, rivalry and sudden, surprising meanness.”—Booklist

"Not only a love story and a time-travel fantasy, but also a provocative and powerful examination of women, marriage, and relationships in two centuries.”—School Library Journal

“Convincingly depicted and . . . compellingly chronicled.”—Starred, The Bulletin

"This thought-provoking story has a powerful message, effortlessly woven into the ordinary trappings of a teenager’s life.”—Kirkus Reviews

“A wrenching, breathlessly paced plot and an adrenaline-charged romance make Cooney’s latest novel nearly impossible to put down.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“Poignant.”—Starred, Booklist

“Absorbing and convincing. Strong characterizations and suspenseful, impeccably paced action add to this novel’s appeal.”—Publishers Weekly

“A real page-turner.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Gripping and thought provoking.”—Publishers Weekly

“The power and nature of love is wrenchingly illustrated throughout this provocative novel. . . . The emotions of its characters remain excruciatingly real.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“A gripping sequel to The Face on the Milk Carton. . . The gut-wrenching circumstances in which the characters find themselves are honestly conveyed.”—Booklist

“[Cooney] has taken this novel to extraordinary heights.”—Starred, School Library Journal

“Readers of Cooney’s addictive The Face on the Milk Carton and Whatever Happened to Janie? can start licking their chops.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

Author Q&A

Q: Many of your books are set in suburban Connecticut. This one features New York City as its prime location. Why did you decide to change your location and actually make New York City a character?
When I had an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan (right where Mitty lives), I fell in love with the city. I loved everything–the people, the parks, the libraries, the concerts, the walking, the languages being spoken. Since I raised my three children in the suburbs, I kept wondering what it is like to grow up in an apartment building
in New York. I wanted to write a book in which New York City was just as important a character as the hero, because that’s the way you feel when you live in New York–New York is your constant companion, your antagonist, your hope.

Q: You present your main character as a slacker and a privileged boy who gets away with things by using his charm, and yet readers like him–and it seems you do as well. Why did you create such a character?
It’s so appealing to lie around and do nothing much. In fact, kids often revel in doing nothing much and
are admired for it and might even brag about it. But in the end, it’s what you do that counts. Will you stand up and do good things when it matters, or hang around and do nothing? This is Mitty’s test.

Q: The Internet plays a large part in this novel. Indeed, this novel could not have been written even ten years ago. How do you feel about such an element in your book?
My readers have always known the Internet, but it’s new and still astonishing to me. The changes it has meant in our world are awesome and wonderful and terrible. I want my readers to think about its power and also its indifference–the Internet doesn’t care what’s on it or who uses it. You,my reader, have to care.

Q: America is a changed nation post-9/11. Do you believe there are good guys and bad guys?
The most important things in life are to decide what you stand for and then to stand up for it. Both are difficult. I believe kids know from toddlerhood what is right and what is wrong, what is fair and what is unfair,what is good and what is bad.The world around us has different ideas. Don’t let go of what you knew in kindergarten: the good guys need to continue being good and help people threatened by a bad guy, whether that’s a bully on the playground or a bully on another continent.

Q: It is exciting that the choices of a teenager might change the fate of a nation. Talk about why this matters to you.
It’s easy to feel that any one of us cannot make a difference. But every vote does count and every effort does matter. Everyone is crucial to how the world turns out.

Q: What was your writing process for this novel?
I’ve never been able to address this question well, because my style sounds odd even to me. I write a bit of an outline–really a short story of what the book might be–and then I just hurl myself at my idea using no particular order or technique until I’ve compiled hundreds of miscellaneous paragraphs. Usually I find that these sort themselves into a chronology and a story line that may or may not match my original idea, and then I lean into my characters and spot the ending, and through it all, I feel this intense excitement, as if I’m uncovering some treasure that was always there, it just needed me to dig.

Q: What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
Practice. If you want to play the piano, you practice scales and chords every day. If you want to play basketball, you practice free throws. Writing is no different. Classroom assignments don’t count. Practice paragraphs on your own,and beginnings of stories, and descriptions of people, and dialogue. No need to finish anything–after all,you don't ever finish practicing basketball, do you? I do not recommend keeping a journal. First-person narratives are boring to the reader, and you don’t want to be boring. Practice writing in the third person, like this: “Mitty slept so soundly that people could sit on him and watch television, have arguments and clean up after a sick dog, and Mitty would never know.”

From the Paperback edition.

Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. In Chapter One, Mitty learns that the term paper assigned by his biology teacher, Mr. Lynch, requires a bibliography that includes at least four physical books, so that students’ research is not done exclusively online. Discuss how the Internet is as important as any character in this novel.

2. Mitty is a likeable slacker. How do his relationships with his friends, the people in his neighborhood, and his family change as the story develops? How does Mitty himself change? Discuss Mitty’s feelings about his “hometown,” New York City. How does where you live change your view of the world?

3. Except for laboratory samples, variola major, a killer virus, has been eliminated by scientists.How can people feel safe despite the threat of bioterrorism? How involved should government become with scientific research?

4. Mitchell John Blake and Olivia Clark are classmates and friends, yet each wants more from their friendship. How do Mitty and Olivia signal their interest to each other? Do male and female approaches to romantic involvement differ? How?

5. Often teenagers do not confide in their parents, even though their parents want to know what’s going on. Discuss the complex relationship between Mitty and his parents. Can you understand his parents’ point of view?

6. The FBI and the CDC come to Mitty’s school seeking information. Discuss the issues of privacy vs. homeland security.

7. When Mitty sends out a general e-mail asking for information on the scabs he has found, he has no idea who might reply. Who are the bad guys in this story? How do you think people such as terrorists justify killing innocent people? Can you think of any cause that would lead you to violent action?

8. Mitty realizes that turning himself in to the proper authorities could mean life or death–not only for him, but also for millions of people. Discuss how Mitty develops a stronger sense of patriotism and decides to go with the woman he believes is from the CDC.What is the meaning of being a good citizen?

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