Review: The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

November 21, 2011 8-12 years of age, Kid-Lit/Middle Grade, Review, Scholastic 9

  • Reading level: Ages 12 and up
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0545290147
  • Source: Big Honcho Media

Some time in the past, the United States went to war with China and its allies, using militarized weapons like nuclear bombs.  China responded with P11H3, a strengthened version of the flu.  It was referred to as the Eleventh Plague, spreading through the nation like wildfire. The last aired reports indicated that the death tolls were in the hundreds of millions in the United States alone.

The Collapse took place shortly after P11 hit.  Everything shut down, including the government, factories, hospitals. The lights on the United States were literally turned off, citizens burned out of major cities to prevent spread of the virus.

It’s now years later. Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn and his small family, consisting of his father and grandfather, are now scavengers.  They travel back and forth along the East Coast, searching for items they can then sell for the items they need to survive: clothing, food & ammunition.  They aren’t the only ones roaming the wreckage of our former country, slavers also roam the roads, looking for individuals to enslave.

It’s not long before Stephen’s world is upended: his grandfather dies & his father is severely injured within twenty-four hours of one another.  Stephen is able to get his father to a encampment referred to as Settler’s Landing, a town created by a wealthy family, now existing almost as if nothing had changed.  They still celebrate Thanksgiving, say the Pledge of Allegiance, the children attend school.  To them, Stephen is an outsider, the bottom of the totem pole.

Stephen soon realizes that life after the war isn’t much different than it was before: the wealthy hold power, have control of which individuals are allowed to reside in their encampment. When the actions of Stephen and a rebellious girl cause the citizens of Settler’s Landing to take action against a neighboring encampment, Stephen questions his position in life, is he really a scavenger? Or should he stay put and make a difference in the future of his world? His mind, his memories, battle with the feelings he has now.  Is there a future worth fighting for or, is the world really over?

The Eleventh Plague is a pretty thought-provoking book about how the actions of our nation, our culture, can impact the future.  Aptly suited for the middle-school age group, I think had the author developed the characters and the back story a little more, this would be a compelling reader for teens as well. That’s not to say it isn’t an enjoyable read, it certainly is an engaging story.  However, as an adult reading this, I felt I only new the characters at face value, I wanted to learn more about Stephen and Jenny, the young Chinese girl, uncertain about her identity in the “new” world.

I read this with my twelve-year-old son, John.  The discussion this book generated was the biggest benefit gained from reading this book. We talked about a whole host of issues, including war, relations with other countries, perceived feelings about members of other cultures, and more.  As mentioned above, I think this book is correct in it’s age level for twelve and above. There is no foul language but there is a considerable amount of violence, not shocking for a book about a post-war nation.  Young fans of the Hunger Games trilogy as well as John Marsden’s Tomorrow series would appreciate the similar storylines: young characters forced to find a means to survive in a war-ridden world. Recommended.

I have one copy of The Eleventh Plague to give away to one lucky reader. To enter, please fill out the form below. Open to US & Canadian residents only, please. The winner will be contacted via email on Monday, November 28th. Good luck!

9 Responses to “Review: The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch”

  1. Alison's Book Marks

    I’m running a giveaway for this book on my blog this week as well, but I have not had the opportunity to read it yet. I love that you read it with your son and had a discussion afterwards – this is one of the things I enjoy most about having sons who love to read!

  2. Michelle

    Was trying to find out if there was swearing before I le9t t e k. s any more?