“I traced a finger around Mom’s face and then around the outline of us standing together, a cloudless blue sky behind us. I liked to imagine that the picture had been taken before the Collapse, that we were just a family taking a trip out to the amusement park where we would ride rides and eat popcorn, our laughter rising into the sky like balloons. At the end of the day we’d drive home in the gathering dark and I’d fall asleep, my head cradled in Mom’s lap, her fingers lightly brushing the hair back from my forehead.
But then, as always, I looked down, just to Mom’s left under the Six Flags sign. A couple of years later, Dad and Grandpa would dig two graves there, one large and one small, while I watched.”
The Eleventh Plague written by Jeff Hirsch is the perfect book for young readers who are on the cusp between books for 9-12 year olds and the teen genre. The story of Stephen’s struggle in a world ravished by a deadly plague is interesting but does not contain the complexity of some other Teen novels, which makes it an ideal read for young readers who find the books aimed at their age group not challenging enough or for teens who are not huge readers but want something easy (but which keeps their attention) from the Dystopian genre.
Sometime in the near future the human population has been decimated by a plague, which has been aptly named the Eleventh Plague. Stephen Quinn and his father are two survivors who call themselves Salvagers, individuals who travel across North America searching and collecting items to sell at small hubs of civilization. When an encounter with Slavers changes the structure of their lives Stephen finds himself brought to a community unlike any he has ever seen before. It’s a place that mirrors what the world was like before the plague: electricity, a school and baseball games. There he meets Jenny, the rebellion of the community, and after a joke that was meant as nothing more than a prank, the two will have to decide whether they belong in the tight-knit community of Settler’s Landing or out in the open world beyond it.
The Eleventh Plague is one of the simpler Teen books I have read. At 278 pages it’s less than half the size of many of the most popular Teen books in the last few years and the story line contains far fewer twists and turns. I was able to finish the books in two days and it likely would have been a day if I hadn’t had prior commitments. The story still packs a punch for its size however. Whereas some Teen novels come across as overly far-fetched, the challenges faced by the characters of The Eleventh Plague are more believable and understandable. They are still serious in nature, such as discrimination, serious injuries and death, but their circumstances are not based so much in the extreme but in the normal onstacles that every day life can present. It’s a dystopian novel very much based in reality, or what could be reality if a plague or biochemical virus of such a deadly force was let loose on society.
In my opinion, and as stated earlier, The Eleventh Plague is a great book for young readers who find the books published for 9-12 years old a little too slow. It seems to be a growing trend that more and more young readers are turning to Teen books, even if they are not yet a teen themselves. Hirsch touches on some serious topics, but the novel is missing the usual sexual tension and exploration that is so often found in Teen books now. The writing is simplistic but still enjoyable, very much like the Hunger Games, which is perhaps not so surprising as Scholastic published both. On the other hand, this novel might be the perfect choice for a picky teen or one who is not at the expected reading standards of their age group. While the novel is simplistic in style, the plot line is still fast-paced enough to keep the reader invested to the very end.
Hirsch presents a rousing story in a simple package with The Eleventh Plague. It can appeal to readers on the end of juvenile genre and across the Teen spectrum. It was also a fresh face to the post-Apocalyptic theme that often focuses on the extreme instead of the simple but realistic challenges that can arise from day to day when the necessities of life are hard to come by. The Eleventh Plague would be a great gift for that reluctant reader or for that growing boy who is looking for an adventurous but appropriate read.
Devon – athousandbooklife
Other books by Jeff Hirsch: Magisterium (2012)