Cover image for The cure
The cure
Levitin, Sonia, 1934-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
San Diego, Calif. : Harcourt Brace, [1999]

Physical Description:
181 pages ; 22 cm.
A sixteen-year-old boy living in 2407 collides with the past when he finds himself in Strasbourg in 1348 confronting the anti-Semitism that sweeps through Europe during the Black Plague.
Reading Level:
670 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.7 9.0 28730.

Reading Counts RC High School 5.5 10 Quiz: 17849 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Deviant. Rebellious. Abnormal. The Elders say Gemm 16884 is all these things, and that he is a threat to the utopian society in which he lives. The Elders give him one chance to save himself: He must undergo the mysterious and painful "cure," or he and his twin sister, Gemma, will be automatically recycled. Gemm chooses "the cure" and finds himself in the year 1348, at the onset of the Black Death. He is now Johannes, sixteen, living in Strasbourg--a town beset by anti-Semitism. Johannes struggles to hold on to his faith and family, his love for Margarite, his passion for music, and his belief in the goodness of human beings. But can the will of one boy change the world? Award-winning author Sonia Levitin weaves a chilling tale of a futuristic society colliding with the past--and delivers an unforgettable message about the recurring nature of history.

Author Notes

Sonia Levitin is the author of many acclaimed works of historical fiction, including The Return, a Parents' Choice Honor Book and winner of the National Jewish Book Award; Journey to America, an ALA Notable Book; and Escape from Egypt, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and a Booklist Editors' Choice. Ms. Levitin writes and teaches in Los Angeles.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6^-9. It is the twenty-fifth century, and Gemm 16884, who has feelings and emotions, is not in step with the rest of his dystopian society. Offered a choice between "recycling" or a cure that will break him and acceptably remold him, Gemm takes the cure. He is sent to fourteenth-century Strasbourg, where, as a Jew, he is surrounded by virulent anti-Semitism. Gemm's experience in Strasbourg is carefully crafted and emotionally evocative. The culmination of the cure, in which the Jews of Strasbourg are burned to death, is shocking and powerful. The book's weak element is its futuristic framework. Never as fully developed as the historical aspects, the scenes set in the future jar rather than complement the body of the tale. Most poorly integrated is the ending. After Gemm returns to the future, "cured," he tries to conform, but, having known love and pain, he decides he must throw off the mask that (literally) all in his society wear, and sets out to forge a future in which people can experience emotion and thus choose between hatred and love. After what Gemm has experienced in Strasbourg, readers might not be convinced by his logic. Plenty of discussion possibilities here, and, of course, a natural pair with Lowry's The Giver (1993). --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

Levitin (The Singing Mountain) handily combines futuristic science fiction and late-medieval Jewish history in a story reminiscent of Lois Lowry's The Giver. In the year 2407, societal tranquillity is maintained by ample servings of serotonin drinks to the genetically engineered population and by careful monitoring to suppress all expressions of individuality or creativity. When the boy Gemm 16884 somehow feels moved to make music, an extinguished art, he is given a choice between being "recycled" (killed) or sent into virtual reality to experience the bad old days as a cure for his deviant desires. Opting for the latter, he finds himself living as Johannes, the 16-year-old son of a Jewish moneylender in 1348 Strasbourg. In steadily more harrowing chapters, Levitin shows a thickening climate of anti-Semitism. As the bubonic plague spreads from the ports of Sicily across Europe, the Jews are accused of poisoning the water supply; whole communities of Jews are massacred. Will Gemm's experience as Johannes deaden his craving for art? That everything about the plot seems inevitable, from Johannes's dreadful martyrdom to Gemm's last-page embrace of humanism, only magnifies the tension: much of the horror of Johannes's plight, for example, comes from the audience's superior awareness of Johannes's certain doom. The author pulls off a nifty feat--she makes a low point in human history the prelude to a crescendo of idealism. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7-10-Johannes is the 16-year-old son of a moneylender in Strasbourg in 1348. He loves his family, his music, and the butcher's daughter. However, it is difficult to be a Jew in Europe, for discrimination is rampant. Now people are talking of a terrible pestilence that strikes men down, turns them black, and knows no cure but death. As the plague sweeps Europe, it is the Jews who are blamed for poisoning the waters and spreading the disease. Johannes's tragic story is also the story of Gemm 16884, a 16-year-old living in the United Social Alliance, a futuristic society in which "Conformity begets Harmony begets Tranquillity begets Peace begets Universal Good." But Gemm has been having strange dreams and hearing music, strictly forbidden. The Elders believe that transporting Gemm to Strasbourg to suffer the horrors that Johannes endured will cure his love of music forever. But the cure itself is so misguided that it actually backfires, causing Gemm to return with renewed passion and the conviction to change his world. Readers will be fascinated with Gemm's world, where people wear colored silk masks to represent conformity, everybody has a twin, and sex as we know it is a thing of the past. However, the music metaphor does not ring true, and the dissonance of the two worlds is often more disruptive than provocative.-Barbara Auerbach, Brooklyn Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.