The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In October I attended a This is Teen event because author Maggie Stiefvater was going to be there. Two other authors also participated, and one of them was Jeff Hirsch, author of The Eleventh Plague. Honestly, I decided to read it because The Hunger Games author, Suzanne Collins is quoted on the book jacket as saying, "The Eleventh Plague hits disturbingly close to home...An excellent, taut debut novel."
If you've read The Hungers Games then you know that Collins is no-joke when it comes to the harsh realities of what our world would be like if it was destroyed by disasters of nature and mankind. Based upon my experience with her books, I felt like Hirsch's book would be worth a try. It turns out, Collins was right. While Hirsch's world isn't as disturbing (no televised fights to the death between children), you will find yourself in an America you recognize.
This time, the US has been decimated by a deadly sickness known as "the Eleventh Plague," and the country is a barren wasteland. Following the plague, was "the Collapse" when the government, businesses, hospitals, and the military fell. Our protagonist is a 15-year-old boy, Stephen, who was born after the Collapse. He and his father have just buried Stephen's grandfather, and they are faced with a choice. Stephen's grandfather ran their trio strictly, and the family kept on the move. Others were not to be trusted, and everything was done with one purpose in mind—survival. Eventually, Stephen finds himself in charge of their destiny; and now is when you should go to a library or bookstore and pick this one up.
For those concerned about exposing young readers to graphic elements, I say don't worry. This is far less violent than The Hunger Games series. What amazed me the most was the way this made me think about human nature and the things we regress to and cling to in dire times. I also loved the imagery Hirsch conjured for me with two of my favorite lines from The Eleventh Plague:
"There was nothing at his back but thirty feet of open air and, beyond that, the bared fangs of a raging river."
"I dug my thumbnail into the soft wood at the edges of the table and wondered if it was true, if she really would come back or if there would be a time when that rubber band stretched as far as it could and would snap, releasing her into the world, never to return."
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