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Friday, March 9, 2012

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

Title: The Eleventh Plague
Author: Jeff Hirsch
ISBN: 9780545290142
Publisher: Scholastic
Released: September 1, 2011
Page #: 304
Source: Overdrive Audio through my library

"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."
First Lines:

"I was sitting at the edge of clearing, trying not to stare at the body on the ground in front of me. Dad had said we'd be done before dark, but it had been hours since the sun had gone down and he was still only waist deep in the hole, throwing shovelfuls of dirt over his shoulder."
Page 1

The whole premise of this story really freaked me out. Can you imagine a virus spreading so fast and killing so many people? Well, maybe it's freaky because it seems like it could really happen.

This starts out as the story of a family - how they have survived. They roam around looking for salvage to trade for goods. But after they try to take on some slave traders, Stephen's father takes a huge fall while they're on the run. He is in a coma and without regular medicine, there's nothing that can be done. But Stephen is found by some men who are a part of a community. They take Stephen and his dad back with them to try to help. It's in this settlement that Stephen really learns about community.

Can you imagine living all of your life in a world where fear and violence reign so supreme? Stephen practically doesn't know of anything else. It's really a story about people learning to live with the aftermath of destruction. And you can see all walks of life - the survivors, the thieves, the cheaters, those in denial, and those who are profiting. It's kind of amazing to think about which category you might fall into.

The whole Chinese-started-it thing was really interesting to me as well. While I'm sure having another superpower country do this makes it seem fairly realistic, it adds a context I hadn't expected. There's a little talk of race and country origin because of one of the characters. People become scared of her because they think she's from China. And I'm very glad that she found a prominent place in this story. It helps give a little depth to it.

I think the point at which the story really started to take shape for me was when Stephen started to realize how things were handled in Settlers Landing. There are things that start to make sense - things that fall into place. You realize that not everything is as idyllic as it seems. But it's still about people believing in each other and trusting each other. One of the big themes seems to be about trust. I liked that added component.

I think anyone who has gotten into the post-apocalyptic stories lately will enjoy this one. It's got a very interesting premise and it really gave me something to think about. I know others will enjoy this one as well. It's not one to be taken in lighthearted-ly.... it's an intense story and it will go over well, I think. Add it to the ranks of good teen fiction :).

Full disclosure: I listened to this book through my library's OverDrive service.
Other Blog Reviews:

Emily's Reading Room
The Book Smugglers
Jenn's Bookshelves
The Guilded Earlobe
The Salted Peanut
The Diary of a Bookworm
A Backward Story

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