The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch
"America is a vast, desolate landscape left ravaged after a brutal war with China. A vicious strain of influenza has left two-thirds of the population dead. People called the sickness the eleventh plague. Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn and his family were among the few that survived and become salvagers, roaming the country in search of material to trade for food and other items essential for survival. 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. There Stephen meets strong, defiant, mischievous Jenny, who refuses to accept things as they are. 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."
I had been looking for a good, realistic post apocalypse book for a while now and The Eleventh Plague hit the spot. The Eleventh Plague takes place in America about fifteen or so years after The Collapse caused by a war with China and an outbreak of a sickness referred to as the eleventh plague or P11. About two thirds of the population is dead because of this.
The fact that a deadly war with China and/or a plague could actually happen is one thing that I loved about The Eleventh Plague. It made you think- what if you were in the characters’ shoes? What would you do? There were lots of times where the question of right and wrong was presented. On a few occasions I put the book down to take in what was happening and think about the story and what I would do in that position. Now that doesn’t mean the book requires you to think about it to read it or anything like that. Having a thought provoking plot isn’t the same as having a complicated storyline.
Stephen is our fifteen year old narrator who’s a salvager along with his father, who falls into a coma towards the beginning of the book. Stephen was a strong and wise character that seemed to rise to the occasion when necessary. There was Jenny, a girl around Stephen’s age, who because of her race and personality was kind of an outcast. Jenny was always getting into fights and causing trouble around town. At first, Stephen doesn’t really want anything to do with Jenny, but Stephen then discovers that he might have more in common with Jenny than he originally thought. To an extent, I thought that Stephen and Jenny’s relationship developed kind of fast, but it wasn’t anything that really bothered me.
There was a wide range of characters in The Eleventh Plague that showed the good and the bad of the world. There were the slavers, who were people that captured slaves. There was the Henrys family that thought they ran Settler’s Landing because it was originally their homes. They thought that Stephen was spy sent from a settlement to the north. So the Henrys wanted Stephen and his father to leave despite the condition of Stephen’s father. And lastly, there was Marcus and Violet whose hearts where in the right place, but didn’t always follow through when it mattered.
Stephen and several of the other characters were born after The Collapse, meaning that the life of struggling to survive was the only life they knew; they couldn’t miss things like electricity and plumbing like the adults. I liked how the book focused on the rise of a new generation, the generation that could possibly change things, instead of the focusing on the fall itself or right after the fall.
The ending was one of those endings that wrapped up the book nicely and left a small smile on my face. There were so many possibilities for the way the book could end, so I was happy about the way the story ended, but kind of sad to see it end.
The Eleventh Plague was a great, fast paced read. It is full of action and is hard to put down once you start. The story made me stop and think because of its possibility and realism. It’s definitely a must read for anyone that is a fan of post- apocalyptic novels or even if you aren’t a fan of post- apocalyptic books, I would still recommend picking it up.
Source: ARC from publisher (Thanks Scholastic!)