Sunday, December 4, 2011

MEN in YA: The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch (Review)

Genre:Young Adult, Post-Apocalyptic Thriller
Publication.Date  September 1st 2011
Published By:  Scholastic Canada
WebsiteJeff Hirsch

The Eleventh Plague- Goodreads
My review copy:Review copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Book Depository

The wars that followed The Collapse nearly destroyed civilization. Now, twenty years later, the world is faced with a choice—rebuild what was or make something new.

Stephen Quinn, a quiet and dutiful fifteen-year-old scavenger, travels Post-Collapse America with his Dad and stern ex-Marine Grandfather. They travel light. They keep to themselves. Nothing ever changes. But when his Grandfather passes suddenly and Stephen and his Dad decide to risk it all to save the lives of two strangers, Stephen's life is turned upside down. With his father terribly injured, Stephen is left alone to make his own choices for the first time.

Stephen’s choices lead him to Settler's Landing, a lost slice of the Pre-Collapse world where he encounters a seemingly benign world of barbecues, baseball games and days spent in a one-room schoolhouse. Distrustful of such tranquility, Stephen quickly falls in with Jenny Tan, the beautiful town outcast. As his relationship with Jenny grows it brings him into violent conflict with the leaders of Settler's Landing who are determined to remake the world they grew up in, no matter what the cost.

“Is this how we were meant to live - like animals? Living and dying and hoping for nothing until one day we all disappear?
Sometimes I can't sleep she wrote, her messy scrawl replaced by small deliberate letters. Because it's like I can feel the whole world spinning so fast beneath me, and I'm thinking, what am I doing here? Is this where I belong? Do I belong anywhere? Some nights it gets so loud in my head that I want to break something, anything, everything, just to make it stop.
"Maybe we are on the deck of Titanic," she said. "Maybe the Collapse isn't over and this will all be gone tomorrow. I don't know. What I do know is what it's like out there, we all do, and even if I can only have a little break from it, if I can be the kind of person I was before all this happened, then I'm going to take it. Even if it's just for a day."

     In his debut YA novel, The Eleventh Plague, Jeff Hirsch paints a haunting portrait of post-apocalyptic America. Bleak and depressing, but also profound and in many ways uplifting, Hirsch's utterly convincing wasteland is a raw, horrifying experience, but a rewarding one nonetheless.

"We made a mess of things before you were born," he said. "P Eleen was just what we deserved. It was no plague. It was a blessing . Surviving it, that's the real plague. But soon it'll just be... silence."
   In the world after the Collapse, in which you often can't tell the difference between good guys and bad guys, it's better to trust no one. Stephen Quinn, together with his father and grandfather, travels through the vast, desolate landscape in search of anything (food, weapons, tools, etc.,) that could later be traded for something useful, something that would keep them alive for another month, week, or even just a day. They're salvagers (or scavengers if you will). They keep to themselves, avoiding other people, trying not to cross paths with anyone, silently roaming the country. Three ghost-like creatures, sad and hopeless.
"I swear", he exhaled. "That man was a purebred son of a bitch."
"Maybe we should put that on his tombstone."
     When Stephen's grandfather succumbs to his illness and passes away, things quickly go bad. Not long after his grandfather's body is burried, Stephen and his father cross paths with slavers. While trying to help a mother with a child, Stephen's dad gets seriously injured and falls into a coma. Shortly after that, Stephen comes across a small community called the Settlers Landing, and, not having any other choice, accepts their offer to take care of him and his dad. All the rules his grandfather made to keep them safe, are now broken. The question is: can anything good come out of it?  Or is it just the begging of Stephen's problems?
"Mom had said that maybe the world wouldn't always be like it was now. But even if it was, she said, sometimes it was important to do things there was no real use for. Like reading books and taking pictures.
She said we had to be more than what the world would make us."
     The Eleventh Plague is an extremely sad, grim and depressing depiction of a world destroyed by a brutal war. I think the worst part of it is the fact that we - humans - did it to ourselves. We destroyed the world. We started the war. We used up all the Earth's natural resources, causing the Collapse. There isn't anyone else to blame. This book shouldn't even be read as a YA fiction, it should be read as a prophecy of what's to come if we keep doing what we do now. Isn't it exactly where we're heading? Terrifying!

      Jeff Hirsch did a great job painting the bleak post-apocalyptic reality in this story. The setting was absolutely convincing and for the most part of the book it reminded me of John Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. The atmosphere of this book was dark and overwhelming, heavy with the omnipresent sense of danger.

      Sadly, as much as I loved the chilling premise of this book, I really hated the main characters - Stephen and Jenny. To me, they were nothing but ungrateful, irresponsible brats. I didn't see the character depth so many people seem to be raving about. I had a hard time relating to them and didn't understand the motives behind their actions. At all. I mean, I get that Jenny felt ostracized, lost and angry. She didn't feel like she belonged in the Settlers Landing, and after all she's been through, that's understandable. But I still think she should at least show some gratitude to the people who saved her. Instead, she just ran around all sulky and angry all the time, causing trouble, starting fights and being insanely annoying. Same goes for Stephen. He's been going on and on about how he should stay by his dad's side, take care of him and make sure he's alright, but in the end he did the exact opposite - he ran around with Jenny, picking fights and stirring trouble. There are so many instances when he thinks to himself: I should stay out of trouble, I know if I get into (yet another) fight, we will be banished from the community and my dad will die. And then two pages later he's doing what he just said he won't. I really couldn't stand that.

      I feel that this book had a huge potential. With Jeff Hirsch's skillful world-building and deliciously raw writing style, this could have been my new favorite post-apocalyptic novel. Unfortunately, what promises to be an epic story of survival, faith and family at the world's end, turns out to be merely a good and enjoyable read. The setting is utmost brilliant, the atmosphere - completely overwhelming, the plot line (for the most part) - thought-provoking and solid. In the end, though, even all that wasn't enough to make up for the poorly motivated, unforgivable, childish actions of the lead characters.

      I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, though, and I really think it's one of the 2011 must-read! If not for anything else, read it just to enjoy the fabulously depicted settings!

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Thanks to the fabulous
I have one hardcover copy of The Eleventh Plague up for grabs!
This giveaway will be posted tomorrow, so don't forget to stop by and enter!
(CANADA only)

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This review is posted as a part of the MEN in YA event (Nov 20th - Dec 20th)
For more awesomeness (reviews, interviews, giveaways, guest posts) please click the banner below!

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About the Author
Evie is the Blogger behind Bookish. She enjoys reading many different genres, especially YA, Paranormal, Contemporary Fiction and Fantasy.
She loves talking to authors and is always happy to welcome them for interviews, and guest posts. She also likes spreading the love for awesome books and  chatting with fellow book-worms.
You can find Evie here: Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Shelfari | The Library Thing


roro said...

good luck all/ bummr only canada
wicked review evie

Asheley T. said...

this is one that i've been wanting to read for ages. i LOVE a post-apocalyptic setting, even more than a dystopian setting, and the fact that you mention Cormac McCarthy's The Road pretty much solidifies it for me.

it is a little bit of a bummer about the characters being annoying for you. but ultimately, for me, i think the bleak setting and storyline will win over the characters being brats -- at least in my case. i hope they will anyway.

great review, evie!! i'm loving this event SO MUCH!!!

Giselle said...

Great review Evie! This is another one that I've been dying to read!

Xpresso Reads

Sarah E. said...

This was one of the books I almost bought yesterday when I was perusing around in walmart while my oil change was being done. I limited myself to only getting one for myself and one for my husband though, so I wouldn't go book crazy.

I think it sounds very interesting. I like the plot settings!

Andra Lyn said...

I've also been dying to read this one...I'm kind of scared though...characters are always huge with me...If it was broken down, I think like 60-70% of my enjoyment of a book depends on characters and character development...If the characters are brats...well...maybe I'll just wait a while...Great review as always chick!

WildIrishRose33 said...

The cover looks like it describes the book pretty well, like you said, haunting. Scary to think that that's how our world could turn out.

On another note, I can't stand spoiled rotten lead characters. :-P I think that's a big reason why I hate Clary so much in The Mortal Instruments series.

Still, it looks like it'll be a great book to read. :-)

Kathy said...

It's too bad that the characters are annoying. :( I am such a character driven reader that it could be a turn off.

Luckily, it sounds like the word, atomosphere, and writing help.

It sounds like something that could happen, which would make the novel even scarier.

Amazing review.

Bhand35 said...

I have over looked this book a few times but will definitely have to pick it up after reading your review thanks.

Gwenyth Love said...

Great review Evie! My son actually just started reading this and is LOVING it! (Which is saying something...) Once he is done I am going to give it a read as well. Thanks for sharing!

Emily @ Falling For YA said...

Thanks for another amazing review =) I have been really looking forward to this debut novel and I will be moving it up on my To be read list.

Christina said...

I like all of the quotes. Hmm, it's too bad that the main characters are awful...makes me question how much I'll like the book.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks for the honest review. Doesn't it stink when a novel with a great premise has characters who rub you the wrong way on every level? =(

Jaime Lester said...

I've seen this one at my local library several times, but I always pass it up because the cover doesn't really catch my eye. I know, I broke a cardinal rule. But, after your review, I think I am going to have to give it a shot. It sounds like it might just be a good book. Thanks for your review!

gracelo said...

I haven't yet heard of this book yet, and am sorry that you didn't enjoy the characters . . . I can totally get how a book can have an amazing concept but with characters that just make you want to tear your hair out! Thank you for the introduction to a good post-apocalyptic read!

Unknown said...

I love post apocalyptic book and this sounds good. What I like to know more about is - what happened to Stephen's father! I'm a part of a close knot family and affairs like that losing a parent or grandparent tugs at my heart.

Thanks for the review!

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