Lovers of dystopian fiction will want to read Jeff Hirsch’s The Eleventh Plague.
Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn lives the life of a salvager after a biological war left most Americans dead. His family is among the few survivors. When his grandfather dies and his father falls into a coma after an accident, Stephen makes his way to Settler’s Landing, a community that seems almost untouched by the war. There Stephen meets Jenny, a complex girl who refuses to accept things as they are. When they play a prank that goes horribly wrong, they find themselves in the middle of a battle that will change Settler’s Landing and their lives forever.
Ever since reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the Lil Diva (11) has been on a dystopian fiction kick. It’s not my favorite genre, but it definitely is one filled with raw emotions. During last year’s summer reading program at the library, pre-teens and teens got a chance to pick free paperbacks as prizes. That’s how we got our hands on The Eleventh Plague.
After the collapse, meaning after a nation unleashed a deadly virus on the United States, survivors ended up in certain roles. Some, like Stephen Quinn’s family, were salvagers. Others became slavers or mercenaries. Stephen has only known life as a salvager, but all that changes after his grandfather dies and his father slips into a coma after a fall. Found by scouts from Settler’s Landing, Stephen and his father are brought to this almost ideal community where a woman doctor cares for Stephen’s father and Stephen attempts to adjust to life as a kid going to school and playing baseball. Then he meets Jenny. He doesn’t know what that girl’s deal is, but she certainly isn’t happy about the life she’s living. As they grow closer, Stephen is torn between a commitment to caring for his father, going to school, and his attraction to Jenny.
While I will never be a fan of this genre, I must admit Hirsch put together a can’t put down story that begs to be read. This book drips angst. The only life Stephen has ever known is tossed into chaos. He’s not welcome by everyone at Settler’s Landing and he has trouble fitting in. And to watch the results of an innocent prank unfold into something Jenny and Stephen could never have imagined is totally heartbreaking.
If I had to level any criticism of the book it would be that the epilogue went on too long. Even if a book is the most satisfying one you ever read, I don’t know many people who enjoy an epilogue that is nearly twenty pages long.
My girls at 11 and 9 are a bit too young for the book, but they often read more advanced material. Parents should be forewarned for pre-teens that there are a few kissing scenes and Stephen talks about how Jenny feels against his body or his reaction to her kisses.
Superb story, excellent ending, and definitely a winner if you enjoy this genre.
Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2011)
We received a free copy of this paperback from our local library. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.