Author: Jeff Hirsch
Genre: YA Post-apocalyptic
Pages: Hardback, 278
Published: September 2012
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Opening Lines: "I was sitting at the edge of the clearing, trying not to stare at the body on the ground in front of me."
"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 too 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."
~ Jacket copy
Thoughts: Honestly, the description of this book reminded me of so many that have come before it. However, the endorsement by Suzanne Collins caught my attention. I loved the Hunger Games! In addition, something about biological weapons will usually catch my attention. For me, aside from war, it seems to be a likely occurrence. That being said, I had a hard time getting into this book.
The book opens with Stephen's father digging a grave. After surviving for over a decade in a broken, nonexistent America, his grandfather finally succumbed to the plague. Now Stephen and his father are faced with the reality of survival without the "iron-fisted" guidance of their patriarch. While Stephen's dad seems to be optimistic, the boy is very doubtful. Unfortunately, he is right to have his doubts. When his father makes a rather stupid move, Stephen is left to deal with his father in a coma and in a town where he is not welcome.
I found Stephen to be rather stiff and one dimensional. At some level, there is a reason for his reservation; however, I felt that the author carried it too far. He became rather boring and bland. It got to a point that Stephen was not a very sympathetic character. Unfortunately, I felt that Stephen's reservation also bled onto the other characters. Some of them—such as Violent and Marcus, Sam, and the teacher—could have had very interesting back stories; however, I felt as though they were lost. Further, for someone how has lived through so much, Stephen's father seemed to be rather stupid.
The author spent more time fleshing out the landscape and not enough with the characters. Further, I felt that the whole concept of the slavers wasn't developed. I wanted to know why the soldiers had a tendency to turn into bands of wandering mercs and/or slavers. Also, if places like Settler's Landing exist, why don't the slavers find them sooner and raid them for supplies/people?
One of the things that upset me was Stephen taking over the weekend classes. Here is a kid that never went to school, only read whenever his parents would read with him—and when he was able to find a book or two—and basically had no real book or school knowledge. After the teacher is injured, he suddenly takes over teaching the little children. I couldn't quite understand the reasoning behind this move. It was rather unbelievable.
To me, this book was okay. It took a bit for me to get into it; however, it did pick up. The character development was seriously lacking, and the author didn't really think too much about the stuff he threw into the book. He could have done a lot of things with characters, the storyline, etc.; however, I felt he just let it drop.
Current Pages: 15,404