Book Review: The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

Title – Author: The Eleventh Plague – Jeff Hirsch
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: September 1, 2012
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Format – Source: Paperback – Bought

After a war with China, America is left devastated by a deadly virus. Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn lives his life like most people now, salvaging and trading whatever he and his family can find. After his grandfather dies and his father suffers an accident, Stephen finds himself in Settler’s Landing, a town that seems too good to be true. The people of Settler’s Landing are trying to recapture the America of the past; the kids go to school, holidays are celebrated, and people have fresh clothes, food, and medicine. When Stephen meets Jenny, a girl who doesn’t want to be confined by the town rules, they play a prank that goes terribly wrong. This prank sets in motion a chaos they can’t control and one that will change Settler’s Landing forever.

I really wanted to love this book. I thoroughly enjoyed Magisterium, Jeff Hirsch’s latest, and had high expectations for his first novel. Unfortunately, I was pretty underwhelmed with this dystopian.

The world, and how it got to be so terrible, makes sense. War, biological warfare, subsequent devolution of society. Hirsch does a good job of taking a relatively simple concept and creating a believable dystopian landscape. His writing style is also clear and precise, the kind of writing I really enjoy.

Where the book fell flat for me was with the characters and plot. Stephen is just so bland and at times face-palmingly stupid. The same goes for his father. This I really could’ve believe: that Stephen has only known a life of salvaging and his father has spent the past fifteen years doing the same, but they both make such stupid decisions. When Stephen gets to Settler’s Landing and he and Jenny pull the prank that sets things off, he makes it so much worse than if he had just kept his freaking mouth shut. I get that he’s a teenager, but I thought having to fight just to survive would imbue a bit of maturity and common sense into oneself.

The action doesn’t pick up until pretty far into the novel, so I was kind of bored. I actually considered putting it down about halfway through because I couldn’t stand Stephen and nothing much was happening.

I’m glad that I read Magisterium first because if I had read The Eleventh Plague first, I may never have picked up another Jeff Hirsch book. Though I consider Magisterium to be a good sign; Hirsch has obviously honed his skill considerably and I’m still looking forward to more from that series.

Overall impression:
The Eleventh Plague is a pretty underwhelming read. It wasn’t terrible; it just wasn’t particularly memorable. I’d skip it and read Magisterium instead or just choose another dystopian.

4 – bad but still readable – Gilderoy Lockhart


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