The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

11th

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)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0545290147
ISBN-13: 978-0545290142

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.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney

diaryThe Diary of a Wimpy Kid series returns with Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel.

Life is never simple for Greg Heffley, but now that love is in the air things are even more challenging. A Valentine’s Day dance at his middle school finds Greg scrambling for a date. His best friend, Rowley, doesn’t have any prospects either, but that’s no surprise. At home, Greg’s marriage-challanged Uncle Gary moves in, and his advice meant to help Greg find a date for the dance doesn’t always prove the most useful.

No matter how many of these books I read, I’m always frustrated by the fact that Greg remains such a self-centered, unfeeling jerk. When I think of wimpy kids, I think of say, Ned Bigby from Ned’s Declassified, who is overall a good kid, but just nowhere near to being popular, and so tiny he gets picked on a lot. In every Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, Greg’s inability to sympathize or care about anyone other than himself makes him an unlikeable character for me. I don’t feel sorry that things turn out for him the way they do because he deserves at least half of what he gets.

What I will say, however, is that the Lil Diva (11) and the Lil Princess (9) love these books. They read them for entertainment value alone. I have to admit they are a laugh a minute. And honestly, I feel the girls need books like this that are light reads, because we always have two books going at the same time, and the other is usually heavily immersed in drama. Alongside The Third Wheel we’ve been reading The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Heirsch. This is dystopian fiction. The main character, Stephen, has lost family members to the influenza, and now his father is in a coma, leaving him feeling very much alone. Definitely no laughs in that one.

While the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is never going to be my favorite, with The Third Wheel, Kinney’s characters are just as funny and outlandish as they were at the beginning. If your kids enjoyed other books in this series, they will love this one.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Reading level: Ages 8 and up

Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Amulet Books; First Edition edition (November 13, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1419705849
ISBN-13: 978-1419705847

I bought this book from my daughter’s book fair. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.