Published: September 1, 2011 by Scholastic Press
Rating: 4 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it
Sometimes the only way to survive is to keep moving.
America is a vast, desolate landscape left ravaged after a brutal war. Two-thirds of the population are dead from a vicious strain of influenza. People called the sickness the Eleventh Plague.
Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn was born after the war and only knows the life of a salvager. His family was among the few who survived and took to 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 to good to be true. There Stephen meets strong, defiant, mischievous Jenny, who refuses to accept things as they are. 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.
Stephen was born after a war, when the United States as we know is gone. The Eleventh Plague, released by China, killed millions. Those left are surviving anyway they know how, day by day. Stephen, his father and grandfather make a living as salvagers, following trade routes and trading scavanged materials for necessities like food and clothes. After Stephen’s grandfather dies, his whole world changes almost overnight. His father now in a coma, Stephen relies on the kindness of strangers and finds himself in the least likely of places. It’s only when Stephen’s new home and friends are threatened that he realizes it’s time he stood up for what he wants in life.
The Eleventh Plague is, I found, an incredibly realistic post-apocalypse. No zombies, no aliens, no robots or insane natural disasters – just human stupidity and war. It hasn’t been too long since everything collapsed and the adults still remember the United States of before. Through Stephen we learn about emptied and looted malls, McDonalds’, Starbucks’ and more. Remnants of the world we know, but that Stephen and others his age and younger really know nothing about but what anyone old enough to remember has told them. People are surviving any way they can, so of course we have people like Stephen and his family following trade routes and salvaging and those who want to settle down and create towns like the people living in Settler’s Landing, but there are also slavers and armies, dangers that cannot just be overlooked.
Trust is a huge theme/aspect of this book. Stephen has grown up being told to never trust anyone but your family. It’s only when he’s at the end of his rope that he gives in to the kindness of others. It takes him a long time to actually start trusting the people of Settler’s Landing, though, and it is people like Jenny, Jackson and their parents who help Stephen see that just because the world has gone to hell does not mean that there is not still kindness, love and compassion in people. Speaking of love, there is a small romance part to the story between Stephen and headstrong, impulsive Jenny. But you know, I think I would have actually enjoyed the book a bit more without it. The whole romance just felt quick, and you knew it was coming. Even though I love Jenny’s character, and ultimately the book is all about Stephen’s journey, it would have been nice to have Jenny and Stephen just as good friends.
Stephen does a lot of growing up by the end. He sees how his actions can affect others, and realizes that he has a responsibility to himself to find what he wants out of life. Yes, he’s a teen and makes some mistakes and quick decisions along the way, but that’s what lets you connect so well with his character. There were times I just wanted to give him a hug and tell him that the world wasn’t always doom and gloom, and that things can and often do get better. The Eleventh Plague is a perfect read for anyone who wants a scarily realistic look at what could happen after an apocalypse of the war-kind.
Hardcover received from Scholastic in exchange for my honest review. Thank you so much!