Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Eleventh Plague

The Eleventh Plague
by Jeff Hirsch

In an America devastated by war and plague, the only way to survive is to keep moving. In the aftermath of a war, America’s landscape has been ravaged and two thirds of the population left dead from a vicious strain of influenza. Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn and his family were among the few that survived and became salvagers, roaming the country in search of material to trade for food and other items essential for survival. But when Stephen’s grandfather dies and his father falls into a coma after an accident, Stephen finds his way to Settler’s Landing, a community that seems too good to be true, where there are real houses, barbecues,a school, and even baseball games. Then Stephen meets strong, defiant, mischievous Jenny, who refuses to accept things as they are. And when they play a prank that goes horribly wrong, chaos erupts, and they find themselves in the midst of a battle that will change Settler’s Landing forever. (description from

One of the dystopian novels that has really stuck with me after reading is Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Hirsch's new book reminds me of The Road in all the best ways. Though it is a (and I hesitate to use this word) lighter feeling novel than the classic, it hits all the same notes. Now by lighter, I just mean that there is slightly more of a sense of hope...partially because the main character is a teen...not that it is in any way less than The Road.

The Eleventh Plague takes a teen to the breaking point in a seemingly unforgiving world. When Stephen finds himself alone and not on the trail, but in a town, he has no idea what to do with himself. His entire world has gone upside down. As he begins to fit into Settler's Landing, he discovers that even the idyllic hides ugliness. Hirsch raises questions about discrimination, racism, morality and consistently presents Stephen with a world that is layered and impressively realistic.

Amid the flaws that Stephen must continously face in the humanity around him, he also finds little jewels. People willing to step up to save one another. People who fall in love. People who help one another without thought to the consequences. That is the hope that this novel has...The Road only shows the barest glimpse of better possibilities, but here a reader could truly believe that even in the darkest night, dawn is still coming.

Finally, this book has a realistic and satisfying ending. It's not perfect...there are still moments of fear, but there is also happiness. I really enjoyed the whole book and felt that it ended just right. Kudos to Hirsch!

Full disclosure: Audio book received to review for AudioFile
2011 Debut Author Challenge title

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