THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE
Received from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
In an America devastated by war and plague, the only way to survive is to keep moving.
the aftermath of a war, America’s landscape has been ravaged and
two-thirds of the population left dead from a vicious strain of
influenza. Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn and his family were among the
few that survived and became salvagers, roaming the country in search of
material to trade. But when Stephen’s grandfather dies and his father
falls into a coma after an accident, Stephen finds his way to Settler’s
Landing, a community that seems too good to be true. Then Stephen meets
strong, defiant, mischievous Jenny, who refuses to accept things as they
are. And when they play a prank that goes horribly wrong, chaos erupts,
and they find themselves in the midst of a battle that will change
Settler’s Landing--and their lives--forever.
The Eleventh Plague introduces us to a reality we can easily see happening, an act of bio-terrorism decimating the human population and leaving behind a new humanity in its infancy – vulnerable, fragile, and susceptible to a variety of predators. Many times with books that feature a world post-devastation, we can’t help but crave all the little details that led us to this place, wanting a full accounting of just how the world we know became the world we currently see depicted in ink before us. In this case however, though Mr. Hirsch does not spend a great deal of time recounting the history of the Collapse, we never really feel that keening desire to know more, instead we’re given just enough that we can easily picture how a world thriving quickly became a world desolate and struggling.
While Stephen’s story is a well-written and intriguing one, our investment never reaches that deepest level where our heart seems to beat in time to the rhythm of our fingers flipping the pages, and sheer desperation to uncover the fate of beloved characters never quite takes hold the way we’d like it to. Stephen’s journey to redefine the words "home" and "family" as they pertain to the world he thought he knew feels very even keel despite the action taking place – our adrenaline failing to spike when events get tense and death is meted out – and we remain safely removed from the fighting, curious as to the outcome without being ravenous with desire for it. Overall, The Eleventh Plague is sure to be a quick and fascinating read for those who like survival stories, but those who crave character intimacy and complexity may be left a touch wanting.
Paranormal Young Adult
Received at BEA
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
On one side of the Rift is a technological paradise without famine or want. On the other side is a mystery.
Glenn Morgan has lived next to the Rift her entire life and has no idea
of what might be on the other side of it. Glenn's only friend, Kevin,
insists the fence holds back a world of monsters and witchcraft, but
magic isn't for Glenn. She has enough problems with reality: Glenn's
mother disappeared when she was six, and soon after, she lost her
scientist father to his all-consuming work on the mysterious Project.
Glenn buries herself in her studies and dreams about the day she can
escape. But when her father's work leads to his arrest, he gives Glenn a
simple metal bracelet that will send Glenn and Kevin on the run – with
only one place to go.
Magisterium is a story that demands our attention from the first page and continues to hold it throughout, fascinating us with a world bisected; on one side of a lit border a futuristic world of technology and invention thrives, and on the other a world of magic and myth battles for survival. While comparing and contrasting each side of the divide keeps our minds blissfully occupied, constantly questioning whether we support Glenn’s desire to go home or Kevin’s desire to stay and explore, our young protagonist causes us no shortage of frustration.
Glenn often comes across selfish and sometimes even cruel in her dealings with others, the blinders she strapped on after her mother’s disappearance ten years prior forcing her eyes forward at all times so that her view of the world becomes incredibly narrowed, and she can see nothing of it save how the happenings around her apply to the goals she’s set for herself. Every once in a while she’ll pull a blinder from one eye and peek out, but what she sees often triggers an instantaneous fear response, causing that blinder to snap back into place and be secured even more tightly than it was before, and because she’s once again only looking in one direction, she doesn’t see how much her actions hurt those around her.
As with The Eleventh Plague, Mr. Hirsch’s storytelling is captivating, the rhythm of the story easy to follow and enjoy, however, there’s a great deal of potential for emotional complexity in this story that remains untapped. First, we have a seemingly unrequited love situation between Kevin and Glenn, something that’s tense and painful but could easily have been pushed that much further to have us pressing our hands to our chests just to ensure our hearts don’t topple out onto the floor. There’s also the abandonment issues Glenn faces with her mother’s disappearance, as well as Glenn’s personal growth when her narrow viewpoint finally starts widening, but we remain on the surface of all these issues much to the chagrin of an emotional reader like myself, the physical battle between the Magisterium and the Colloquium taking center stage instead.