The Eleventh Plague is a totally plausible dystopian/post-apocalyptic debut novel from Jeff Hirsch that according to Suzanne Collins, (author of the Hunger Games) "hits disturbingly close to home." A brutal war between North America and China leaves a devastated landscape. To make matters worse after the war finally ends two-thirds of the remaining population die from a vicious strain of Influenza known as the 'Eleventh Plague.' Jeff Hirsch builds a believable wasteland where the few remaining survivors have to fight to stay alive.
Fifteen year-old Stephen Quinn is one of those survivors. He has just buried his grandfather when he and his father come under attack by some brutal slave-traders. While fleeing Stephen's father has an accident which leaves him in a coma. For the first time in his life Stephen finds himself all alone having to make his own decisions. It is very refreshing to finally have a young, strong, male lead character. I also like that Jeff Hirsch made him real with flaws and insecurities.
Stephen finds his way to Settler's Landing, "a community that seems to good to be true." It is a small community of families that have tried to recapture what the world was like before the war. Kids go to school and still play baseball. Parents plant fields and help protect each other. There is even a town doctor who may be able to help Stephen's father.
I love that in all the hardship and devastation there was still hope - hope for a better world. It was wonderful to finally find a book where even though the world has been ransacked by war and sickness, kids could find a way to get together and play baseball.
Stephen meets up with defiant, mischievous Jenny in Settler's Landing. She refuses to accept things the way they are and longs to leave Settler's Landing. Here lies my only complaint with this book. I just could not relate to this young female lead. She was antagonistic and just a bit too independent. Maybe that is exactly what Hirsch was going for with this character. I'm not sure. I know that I don't have to like every character and usually I like it when I don't because it means the book is more realistic. It's just in this case when Jenny talks Stephen into playing a prank that ends up going horribly wrong, I found it too hard to believe that Stephen would let himself get talked into such a thing.
Oh well just my opinion and overall I really did like this book and especially the ending. :o)