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. 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. 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--and their lives--forever
The Eleventh Plague is not as brutal as some of its YA-Dystopian counterparts, which makes it much more accessible to a younger YA crowd.
Stephen and his father are Scavengers, constantly moving finding food and shelter where they can and scavenging for things they can trade for weapons or medical supplies. Even though he had never seen a peaceful community before, Stephen heard of people living together in relative harmony outside the clutches of Slavers. He comes upon Settlers Landing, one of those peaceful communities, where he witnesses school, homes, baseball and normalcy for the first time.
Stephen suffers tremendous loss early on in the book, but when hope of a life is offered to him, I found myself nostalgic for a 1950s Americana. A place where people said the Pledge of Allegiance, and played sand-lot baseball, before iPhones and XBox.
Of course, in a post-apocalyptic world, a Utopia is not easily had, nor is it as perfect as it looks on the outside. Settlers Landing is caught up in a war with those on the outside who want to destroy it and enslave its people, as well as a war with those on the inside who have a taste of power and will hold onto it at all costs.
In a way, this was a watered down version of some of the more graphic YA dystopian novels out there - like Blood Red Road and Ashfall - but for those of us who enjoy the raw characters that a stripped down society breeds, The Eleventh Plague was perfect.
AUDIO NOTE: I listened to the audio of The Eleventh Plague, and I thought the narrator did a fine job with this. I'm not sure I would recommend the print or audio versions over one another, though.
I highly recommend this novel for a younger YA crowd, or those who aren't quite yet ready for cannibalism or fascist governmental control of one's lives.
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*Jeff Hirsch's next book: Magisterium (Scholastic; October 2012)
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