I love reading novels by first-time authors. It’s so exciting. That’s why I jumped at the chance to read The Eleventh Plague by first-time author Jeff Hirsch. And while one may classify this novel as just another typical dystopian drama, I beg to differ.
The Eleventh Plague follows 15 year-old Stephen Quinn, who, along with what’s left of his shattered family, roams across the ravaged and destroyed land that used to be known as the United States. Walking among the hollowed shells of McDonald’s restaurants and strip malls, everything seems fine and normal (and eerily similar to the reader’s own reality). But when his Grandfather dies, Stephen must step up to the plate and take charge. He finds himself up against extreme odds and just when he seems to reach his breaking point-BOOM! Enter: some unusually kind strangers. With their help, he finds his way to Settler’s Landing. There, he meets Jenny Tan, a strong-willed and gutsy teenager who interrupts Stephen’s life in a radically new way.
This novel opened up my mind to a new kind of storytelling. It’s different from most Young Adult dystopian novels. Other stories always find ways to romanticize its characters hardships. There’s always that twinge of heroism in dying or the sense that every evil act is committed for the greater good. This story is different. For most of the book, Hirsch never attempts to romanticize Stephen’s struggles. He almost starves to death and it sucks. He nearly gets shot and it sucks. He watches his grandfather die and there is nothing noble or heroic about his death. It just sucks. I kind of like that things can just suck for a little. When all around bad things happen, the good stuff shines a little brighter.
On another note, the character development is insane! At the beginning of the novel, we see Stephen as an abrupt and stony teenager, hardened by a difficult life. But his redeeming qualities save him. It is his father’s voice in his head, telling him that he is his own man and that there are still some good people in the world that prevents him from turning into his grandfather. We also see a lot of development in Jenny Tan, but I don’t want to give too much away.
Overall, I think everyone who reads this book will be pleased, especially fans of The Hunger Games, Legend, Matched, et cetera. It is a truly thrilling and suspenseful book set in a not-too-far-off world that will have readers chewing their nails from excitement. It is awesome. My English teacher would kill me for saying that.
9 out of 10 stars! So good!