The Eleventh Plague, by Jeff Hirsch

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Summary: 20 years ago, the world Collapsed as a result of biological warfare. Now, the survivors are forced to survive however they can. Some have turned to human trafficking. Some are scavengers, who hunt ruins for useful things left over from the past. And still others are struggling to hold on to the world as it once was.

Stephen Quinn, a fifteen-year-old, has been handed a scavenger’s life and travels the trail with his father and grandfather until his grandfather passes away and his father is terribly injured. Now Stephen must turn to Settler’s Landing, a group that is trying to rebuild the world as it once was. But will Stephen’s friendship with Jenny Tan, the town outcast, force him to leave this tranquil life? Will he even want to stay?

This book did not read like a lot of the dystopian or even other YA books coming out at the moment. Instead, it reminded me of something more timeless, more like the YA books that were coming out before YA books were even a thing. I could see this book being taught in school, and I mean that in the best way. Especially following on the heels of a recent NYT op-ed that argued that YA books have no real substance and are not worth the time of anyone with an adult’s intellect, which I would argue is not the case with this book. But that is a discussion for another day.

Reality in a Fiction = Good character building

I liked that this book felt real. People acted in ways I expected them to act, with honest emotions, the right mix of flaws, and we were able to see a wide variety in the types of people who existed in the world Hirsch created. I also liked that this book had a love story, but it was not sappy. There was a romantic interest, but it felt more real, more authentically teenager than you see in other books. I also really enjoyed the underlying morals, something I feel I don’t often see in books anymore.

Standing up for what you believe

One of the big underlying themes of this book was standing up for your beliefs and doing what you can to make sure the right thing happens. Pretty much every character is forced to make a decision at one point or another about doing what is right or doing what is easy. It was interesting watching which decisions the characters would make and also seeing how doing something that seems harmless can quickly spiral out of control.

Finally, a male protagonist!

This is a book that I think males can enjoy. There was not as much action as I may have liked, but it was refreshing to see a male protagonist and to watch how males interact with their world. So many of the YA books out there have a female protagonist and the male supporting characters are single dimensional and make weird decisions. Stephen felt real in his reactions and it was refreshing to read a book from the male perspective.

If you enjoyed The Cay or Ashfall, I think you will also enjoy this book. While different from what I normally read, it was definitely a winner.