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The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

The Eleventh Plague (edition 2011)

by Jeff Hirsch

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6104515,985 (3.3)28
Oh, the promises made in the synopsis. I was so full of hope. I mean, it says, right there - "the world is faced with a choice..." THE WORLD, people. Of course we know that Stephen Quinn is going to be the main man. Of course we know that "the world" isn't going to be a character in this book. But really, shouldn't we get some kind of feeling like "the world" is involved? Instead, we're trapped in this tiny little settlement filled with tiny minds

Now, that said, I do like that Mr. Hirsch explores some tough themes - racism, for one. I like the idea of his world. (But...what plague? It didn't feel very plague-like.) I like where the author was headed, but he just didn't manage to pull it off with any sort of finesse. Also, while I think Stephen could have been a well rounded character, I truly did not understand some of his choices. I can't really say which of them utterly blew me away without spoiling the entire book, but one or two really made my eyes bug out and my brows go up and I had to shake my head and mutter "Huh? What?" a few times.

I really, really wanted to love this. I feel like the lack of world building (there was SOME, not a lot) and the choppy prose combined with a severe lack of detail and information made this one feel a little flat to me. ( )
  SmplexlyRee | Mar 9, 2012 |
Showing 1-25 of 45 (next | show all)
It was just ok. The plot and characters were underdeveloped and it felt like fleshing out both would have made it a trilogy, and potentially more enjoyable. Not great, not terrible. ( )
  GovMarley | Oct 7, 2014 |
I'm on chapter 4 so far and I'm really impressed already.

This book has surprises and starts off with a death. Basically, it's about a father and a son trying to survive the virus or sickness that has been taking over the world. There are also a lot is suspense like hiding from unexpected characters and objects.
You never now what's going to happen next. Will this little group survive the eleventh plague or die trying.

Over all I love the book so far and I can't wait til later on in the book when it gets really exciting. ( )
  ED_Fabro25 | Oct 3, 2014 |
Pretty good YA dystopian book. Family of salvagers running trade trails while trying to avoid slavers in a barren US. ( )
  selinalynn69 | Aug 19, 2014 |
In a post-apocalyptic world, society struggles to rebuild itself, only to work against the forces that destroyed it. Young Todd Hewitt hears voices of all the other men in his village--oh, wait, that's The Chaos Walking series. Wave after wave of attacks demolish most of the United States and civilization must face the consequences of the alien invaders--oh, wait, no, that's The Fifth Wave. In a world ravaged by nuclear war, civilization struggles to rebuild after suffering dangerous fusions that mix together man and machine--wait, that's the Fuse series. Huh. Why is it this plot seems so familiar?

Yes, the post-apocalyptic genre is a very popular genre at the moment. Yes, there is usually a catch--Chaos Walking has its "Noise", The Fifth Wave has aliens with their weaponry, and Fuse has the interesting mix of a nuclear winter and purists that escaped the blast. However, these quirks or twists are what make those series interesting. They provide a channel through which the rest of the book is filtered and, rather than tell the reader how the world has changed and then fill in background information with narration, they show the reader what has transpired and then demonstrate with world-building the wreckage that has come about.

You may be wondering why I've spent the last two paragraphs writing about three different YA series and not mentioning The Eleventh Plague. That's because the background information, the world-building, the little 'niche' that makes a series interesting and gives it its kick are all absent. Rather than have dynamic characters like Pressia, Todd, and Cassie, we have Stephen. Stephen demonstrates none of the likability or power of his counterparts. Instead, Stephen constantly thinks of his abusive grandfather, whom he buried physically at the beginning of the book but cannot bury metaphorically until near the book's end. He ruminates constantly on how his grandfather would have reacted, despite the fact that he clearly hates the old bastard.

Moreover, at the beginning of the book, it's almost as though the role of protagonist and supporting character are reversed. Instead of the character who wants to break the boundaries and see what the world was like in the "before", a rather typical desire for a dystopian or post-apocalyptic protagonist, Stephen just wants to keep wandering around and keep everything safe. His father is the one who longs for the past.

While we're talking about the Before, it seems rather striking that the book's title is something that has happened before Stephen was even born. Unlike The Fifth Wave, where Cassie's flashbacks give us meaning and context to the book's title and the readers relive it with her, we are told about it, not shown. Stephen spends endless paragraphs telling us about the past and very little time *showing* us the past. It's paragraph after paragraph of exposition.

The preacher in The Knife of Never Letting Go, the aliens in The Fifth Wave, and the ominous Dome in the Fuse series (and those who control it) are much better developed opponents than anything The Eleventh Plague has to offer us. We don't know why the slavers do what they do, other than assumed greed. The Chinese and the Americans had a war that escalated, but we haven't seen any of it. Rather than show us exactly how everything fell apart, Hirsch glosses over it. It's as though he couldn't be bothered to come up with a plausible enough conflict to explain wiping out most of Mexico, Canada, and the United States, and decided to skip over it instead.

Subsequent confrontations with antagonists feel contrived. Will Henry (seriously, what is with this guy giving surnames that are also first names?) is weak at best. The notion of spies from another settlement fails to gain much traction and Caleb Henry, as well as his son, remain one-dimensional distractors.

The book's most interesting character, Jenny, struggles to rise above the mediocrity of the book and doesn't quite manage it. What confused me about her and her brother was that they were supposed to be younger (at least, Jackson was) and yet the book treats them as the same age. I wonder if Hirsch simply forgot this detail, as he did so many other things.

When Stephen, at the beginning of the book, believes that there is nothing else out there and then denies wanting to live in another world, it also seems contrived for him to develop loyalty toward people he has only known for a few days. This isn't a Disney film. It takes longer than that to change deeply held beliefs. Moreover, as he consistently errs toward whatever his grandfather would have thought was best, it feels like he is a shadow of a character, one who defers to someone we've never met and that all his development consists of phantom movements.

The one positive thing I can say about this book is that it contains a lot of action. Indeed, there is little rest time for the protagonist and his list of supporting characters. (There is also little depth to any of the characters and deaths and injuries are lackluster at best).

I'm not sure Suzanne Collins ever read the book she reviewed. If she did, perhaps she was too tired from the success of her superior series to give an accurate declaimer. The last time I read a book this bad was I Am Number Four. I had to struggle to finish that book too. At the end, I skimmed the last few pages, because reading any more was torturous.

I feel bad for disliking this book, since he'll be at a conference I'm attending tomorrow. I wanted to like it. I mean...just reading through the entire book gave it more of a chance than it really deserved. ( )
  liveshipvivacia | Apr 26, 2014 |
The Earth is destroyed after the war. Steven, his father and Grandfather are making a living at scavenging and selling what they can find. Soon Steve is on his own after his Grandfather dies and his father has fallen into a river hitting his head and becoming unconscious. What will become of Steven now? ( )
  ThePageturners | Mar 29, 2014 |
No you die hard fans of the zombie apocalypse, this is not that kind of book. The eleventh plague is something much more, a journey and experience into raw human emotion and how our species reacts when we go from living, to surviving. Showing that when we no longer become to the top of the food chain, we react in not the most calmest of ways. As many of my other reviews, just a heads up, this is a mature book, so don't expect a happy go lucky story and zany characters.

It's been a while since I actually read this book, and for good reason. It's not the easiest of books to explain without getting offtrack. The story is the stereotypical "humans being infected by unknown virus", but manages to stand out for not being based around zombies, but rather the possibility of a real virus that could kill humans. The story is dark, as well as enthralling. It's dark mood is clearly shown at the beginning of the book, and makes no attempts to hide it. The characters are much better then the story and setting, as they range from main hero, to main badass female, to supportive role models, to that one annoying friend we all enjoy reading about. They develop over the course of the book, and experience the horrors of the world. As this being a mature and dark book, characters will die off so don't try to have optimistic thoughts while reading, because they will be crushed...Several times.

The Eleventh Plague is one of the many popular apocalypse books coming out in recent years, but stands out in my mind for its great cast of characters, interesting story and an unapologetic view of our world. Also, it isn't about zombies, so that's a win win. For many nerds today, this book scenario would be a dream come true, to the world, their worst nightmare.
  br14kabu | Mar 5, 2014 |
I loved this book! Yes, it is another book about the apocalypse. No, it is not like all those other books.

This is a story about Stephen, a boy who loses his family and finds a family and town willing to take him in. Most everyone is accepting of him (with the exception of a few - you always have to have a conflict) and this teaches him to trust again. The book talks a lot about standing up for what you believe in and helping others.

A great read with a good message and a positive ending. ( )
  WiseYoungFools | Feb 12, 2014 |
Wasn’t exactly the survival story I thought it would be
  butterkidsmom | Jan 18, 2014 |
when a prank goes wrong, chaos erupts. now the main characters, two kids named jenny and Stephan find themselves in the middle of a war just before the freezing cold winter. will they survive? can they even survive?
I think this book was very good. I would recommend it because it is full of action, intensity a little bit of love. This book also has a great story. This was an excellent book especially for Jeff Hirchs first. ( )
  br14copi | Nov 8, 2013 |
It took a very long time for me to get into this book. I actually stopped reading for a while because I wasn't interested in the beginning. It's very hard for me to get into a book if the story takes 100 pages to get started. It was just overall an unintentionally slow book, even though it was less than 300 pages.

However, once the story did get started, I did really enjoy The Eleventh Plague. It was a book that, to me, seemed in the realm of possibility in the future, whereas something like The Hunger Games had some pretty unreal aspects. It was a bit reminiscent of Jeanne DuPrau's The People of Sparks, which was one of my favorite books when I was younger. Still, this book wasn't as good. Yes, I enjoyed the plot line, but I'm not really sure it's worth the time it takes for the story to get set up and on with. ( )
  lizziewrites | Sep 20, 2013 |
The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch was just an ok YA dystopian read with little character development and a rather boring backdrop for the characters to work with. The book is set in a decimated future where Americans dropped bombs on China who then retaliated with germ warfare, which they called the eleventh plague One thing that really bothers me with this and many other dystopian books is that everyone appears to suddenly go dumb, they forget how to bring any modern day comforts back, and they all seem content to live like early day pioneers. Stephen and his family have been getting by as wandering scavengers.

When they have a run in with slavers and his father is badly injured, they are taken in by a small town called Settler’s Landing. In this place of relative safety Stephen learns what it is like to have a home. He has been raised to distrust strangers, but in very little time he is attending school, making friends and playing baseball. The family that has taken him in have a history of helping strays and a young Chinese girl, Jenny, has also been raised by them. Jenny is a rebel and all she wants to do is leave town and see what’s out there. Jenny and Stephen become instantly attached at the hip and they make plans to leave the town together. Of course the slavers eventually find the town, and Stephen and Jenny stay to help, but in the end Jenny still wants to go and Stephen wants to stay.

I didn’t get interested in the book enough to check and see if future issues are planned, For me this one book was enough. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | May 22, 2013 |
Dystopian novel. Characters were just "OK"; situations seemed repetitive and decision-making by the characters somewhat lackluster. ( )
  nandrews | Apr 4, 2013 |
I'm marking this as finished, even though my audiobook file was missing the last 15 minutes of the book. I am on the waiting list at the Chicago Public Library for the audio CD version, perhaps the last 15 minutes will be interesting enough for me to raise this up a star? I doubt it, but I'm going to hold out the possibility. ( )
  pidgeon92 | Apr 1, 2013 |
I really enjoyed this book. I found it to be quite a realistic look at what may happen years after the breakdown of society. It's told from a teenager's point of view and the voice stays true to that teenager.

I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys post apocalyptic fiction. ( )
  ShannaRedwind | Mar 31, 2013 |
Stephen is a scavenger, traveling the post-Collapse landscape with his dad and ex-Marine grandfather. His father and grandfather have never seen eye-to-eye about how to survive, with his father preferring to help others whenever possible and his grandfather erring toward isolation. But now his grandfather is dead, and Stephen and his dad are making their own way. An effort to help a family captured by slavers ultimately results in a tragic accident, leaving Stephen to decide if he's more like his father or grandfather. Stephen's decisions bring him to a small town, a seemingly-bucolic village of pre-Collapse life. Stephen's experience in the outside world makes him distrustful of such a peaceful existence, and he's barely spent any time in Settler's Landing before he's planning for his departure. When a juvenile prank incites a war, Stephen's decisions are no longer just his own: anything he does will affect an entire community, and determine whether they'll continue to live in their slice of the past, or move forward in creating a new world.

Okay, so the Collapse: something about China executing, or detaining (don't remember) two Americans, which started a conflict that grew into a war; the US launched some nukes at China and China unleashed biological weapons, specifically a particularly nasty strain of flu, P11H3. P11, or the Eleventh Plague, killed millions of people, and with all those people dead all kinds of services (hospitals, schools, power stations, etc) shut down and more people died. The end result: the collapse of civilization and a TON of anti-Chinese racism.

Obvious similarities to The Road, at least in Part 1. Other readalikes: Restoring Harmony, for joining up with a new community? The Chaos Walking series, for joining new communities and having all that pesky war-mongering going on?

7th-10th grade appeal; maybe a little older for students who want their post-apocalyptic wars somewhat clean and sanitized. And WTH was up with that romance, like "oh hey you're a GIRL so I LOVE YOU NOW EVEN THOUGH YOU'RE A JERK TO EVERYONE LET'S MAKE OUT"?

( )
  librarybrandy | Mar 31, 2013 |
After a war with China, the United States has been almost totally destroyed. Two-thirds of the population were killed by a plague released by the enemy. Fifteen year old, Quinn, was born after "the collapse" to two survivors of the war. His family has become salvagers to survive. They salvage items and trade them at a survivor colony. The one rule is to always keep moving to avoid slaver traders, who would capture them for profit. When an accident forces Quinn and his father to rely on a group of survivors who have built their own village, Quinn begins to undestand that there are more important things in life than just surviving. He begins to make friends, but he also accidentally brings danger to the group.

I liked the book, but I did have a little trouble getting into it at first. I think that there were some parts that were a little slow. It could be that I have read too many of these apocalyptic survival stories lately and this one just didn't measure up to some of the other ones I've read recently. Still, it was an interesting story, and a good book. It was recommended to me by a student who loved it, so maybe it was just me ( )
  BunaHSLibrary | Jan 31, 2013 |
The world of the Eleventh Plague is a long way from my comfortable office and this blog. Life has become something completely different. China and the United States went to war over some hikers in the wrong place at the wrong time. We bombed China and they retaliated with a virus that wiped out the population of the US and maybe Canada and Mexico. As the cover shows, the United States is now a rusting hulk of what we were.

But, families still exist. There is still a need for warmth, food, shelter and...

This is the world that Steve lives in - has always lived in. He was born after P11 (the Eleventh Plague) hit. His life is that of a salvager roaming the Eastern part of US with his grandfather and father. As the book begins, they are burying Grandpa. Although Grandpa is dead, his voice and his presence looms large over Steve and his dad. Grandpa believed that the only way to survive was to stay away from everyone, believe no one and keep moving. Steve has only known this philosophy. There is no warm fuzzy connection with others - the only way someone would help you is for a price.

Then Steve and his dad have a run in with a pair of slavers and everything that Steve has ever known is turned on it's head. When his dad is injured in a fall and is befriended by Marcus and Jackson and taken to Settler's Landing - the voice of grandpa is challenged by real friendship. Steve sees the inside of a house for the first time, learns what a school is and what others are willing to give up for a friend.

Although this book is another in the long line of "the world is a horrible place and only teenagers get it" genre. I really liked this one. It felt a bit different. The problems were all personal - there was not a secret agenda or a mysterious technical problem to solve. Instead - it was all about a young boy and the baggage created by a past image of the world and the issues of facing new experiences. There is a little love interest - a bully - some explosions and death. I liked it! ( )
  kebets | Dec 28, 2012 |
Hirsch's debut young adolescent dystopia was engaging enough to keep me reading until the end, but isn't memorable. The beginning of the novel was interesting as the main character, Stephen Quinn and his father salvage for things to trade after the collapse. I was anticipating the back story, but was a bit disappointed with how slowly the details of the end of the world as we know it take place. Around page 200 the plot seems to pick up again but then seems to drag through the epilogue. Not a fan. ( )
  speedy74 | Oct 20, 2012 |
The Good Stuff

Realistically dark and intense yet has a hopeful message within
Has a bit of The Road/The Stand feeling to it
Stephen is an intriguing character, you often understand his actions even if you don't agree with them
This is a good story for those boys who really just don't enjoy reading - fast paced, intense and violent (nothing too graphic though)
Doesn't drag too much which was perfect for my state of mind while reading
Nice to see some light moments amidst the darkness
Teens that act like teens - not like mini adults - refreshing
For reluctant readers the little glimpses of back story are fabulous (I wanted a bit more, but I think these types of books are brilliant for engaging kids who dislike reading)
Realistic post-apocalyptic setting - very believable

The Not So Good Stuff

I really didn't like Jenny -- found her unpleasant and selfish
Did I mention how much I disliked Jenny - Stephen could do so much better
Favorite Quotes/Passages

" When I was in med school," she explained. "one of my teachers told me that my only job was to treat the patient in front of me. He said I couldn't change the world, I could just treat what's in front of me."

"Grandpa had told me a hundred times that life wasn't fair and that expecting it to be was for fools.'

"Because there was a time when people helped each other," she said. '"And that made the world a little bit better. Not perfect, but better. We'd like to think we can have that time back."

Who Should/Shouldn't Read

Perfect for the reluctant reader
A fab story for classroom discussion

4 Dewey's

I received this from Scholastic in exchange for an honest review ( )
  mountie9 | Sep 26, 2012 |
I'm a sucker for books about what happens after the break-down of society. Steven has been wandering the country steeped in a "trust no one" environment, but when his life is suddenly changed, he begins to discover what it means to have friends, to be responsible to someone else, and to be courageous. The story moves along well and I liked Steven and I enjoyed watching him learn to see the world through different eyes. I also thought the disaster/post disaster scenario was very believable. ( )
  tjsjohanna | Aug 30, 2012 |
It is good to see a young male protagonist in a young adult fiction novel. I was beginning to wonder if they existed.

Stephen Quinn, 15, and his father are living in a post apocalyptic world which was devastated by an unknown plague. They travel around the country as salvagers who trade their wares to stay alive. However, their luck has run out and they stumble upon some slavers which leads to a horrible injury to Stephen’s dad. Lost and alone Stephen has to rely on strangers (something his grandfather said to never do) to help him get a handle on his life.

See my complete review at The Eclectic Review ( )
  sherton | Aug 6, 2012 |
I did not expect to like this book but did, mostly because of the characters. Born in the dystopia resulting from the release of a weaponized strain of flu, 15 year old Stephen Quinn follows his father and grandfather on their scavenging route through the wasteland. The book starts with the death of Stephen’s grandfather a domineering ex-Marine who believed strict rules and routines are necessary for the family’s survival. Shortly after his death Stephen’s father is injured and slips into a coma. Searching for help Stephen is shocked to encounter settlers who have established a community that strives to return to their pre-apocalyptic lives. There he attends school, learns baseball, and makes friends. A prank gone too far has devastating results. The Eleventh Plague lends itself to interesting lessons about unintended consequences and responsibility. This book would appeal to readers in high school but is probably not appropriate for younger readers. The ending left me hoping for a sequel. ( )
  rwilliamson | Jul 5, 2012 |
This was my very first audio book that I made it a hundred percent through. I have tried many others, but I just couldn’t get into the ones. But then about a month ago a girl that I follow on Twitter tweeted about a website that was giving away free audio books during the summer months. So I was like well why not… And boy am I glad that I gave it a chance. This is probably one the best books to get you into listening to audiobooks.

You meet Stephen and he is living the life that we all thought would never happen. The would have practically ended and they don’t know where there next meal is coming from. I think that would be the worst thing about living in a world like this. I know some people right now are living like this, but I could not be able to live like this.

But then he is forced to live in a settlement that is trying to make their lives like the lives that they once knew. They go to school, hang out with friends, and even play baseball. You would think they had it made. But then reality strikes and life is back where they knew it would, The Eleventh Plague.

Please do yourself a favor. Go and get this audiobook. It was so awesome. The narrator did a great job with the whole story. I truly loved every minute of it. ( )
  lacikcrawford | Jun 28, 2012 |
I felt myself wanting the story to end up in an entirely different way. That's not the fault of the author or the writing, but it left me feeling slightly unsatisfied all the same. I don't know if there are plans for a sequel (the book ends in a way that make a sequel unnecessary) but I wouldn't mind if another book came out. Perhaps that would provide the closure that I feel I lacked. ( )
  MBels | May 27, 2012 |
Ages 12 and up.
Stephen Quinn is 15 and knows nothing of the world before the collaspe except what his father and grandfather have told him. And now his grandfather is dead andafter a clash with slavers his Dad lies in a coma at Settler's Landing. As Stephen discovers Settler's Landing is a true town something that hasn't exited since the collaspe.
Easy to read and a good book to recommend for people who like the Hunger Games ( )
  lprybylo | Apr 6, 2012 |
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