Jeff Hirsch’s debut novel The Eleventh Plague is an ominous story of our world ravaged by P-11, a deadly strain of influenza. Stephen is a teenage boy treks across the abandoned landscape of dusty cars and casinos along with his father and grandfather. His grandfather, a strict former Marine, has always led the family by strict rules: scavenge for items they can sell, and don’t get involved in trouble. However, when he dies from the plague, Stephen and his father get into a fight, leaving Stephen with his injured father. After a series of skirmishes, a village called Settler’s Landing accepts them as one of their own. There, Stephen struggles to adapt to the almost normal life despite the aftermath of the plague surrounding them.
Stephen is a logical and loyal character, although sometimes a bit serious and realistic. In spite of this, readers can still easily empathize with him, considering the situations he is in. Completely opposite of him, Jenny is a fun-loving, energetic girl. Clearly full of confidence, she drags Stephen around.
The mood of the story is dark and gloomy, but not quite bordering on horror. Despite the deathly landscape and eerie concept of apocalypse, the story almost has an upward, optimistic tone towards the end. What is most memorable about Hirsch’s novel is the thought that it could happen even in our world. As opposed to an alien invasion, the threat of influenza is very real, and that is what makes The Eleventh Plague so memorable.
-Phillip X., 7th grade