Audiobook Review: The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

11 11 2011

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

Read by Dan Bittner

Scholastic Audio

Length: 7 Hrs 3 Mins

Genre: Post Apocalyptic Young Adult

Quick Thoughts: The Eleventh Plague should definitely appeal to fans of Post Apocalyptic and Dystopian Young Adult novels with its strong message, fascinating world, and a variety of strong and interesting characters that teenagers should easily relate to.

Grade: B

I’m pretty sure I am getting old. I remember back in my youth when the adventures stories I read would inspire me to attempt my own adventures. I dreamed of heading to Narnia, or on a manned mission to Mars. I was inspired by the restless dreams of youth. Now, I am inspired by my temperature controlled apartment, internet access and comfy bed. As I grow older it’s hard to reconcile the dreams of my youth with the desire for comfort and security I have grown to love. I think this is why I often get frustrated when reading novels containing realistic portrayals of teenagers and there desire for adventure. I want to get up and scream at them to get off my damn lawn and threaten to inform their parents of their troublemaking and rambunctious behavior. While I am a fan of the Post Apocalyptic novel, I really don’t want to live in a Post Apocalyptic world, where I actually have to hunt and scavenge for my meals, and never really feel safe. This brings me to the next of my Post Apocalyptic rules, inspired by Jeff Hirsh’s Post Apocalyptic Young Adult novel, The Eleventh Plague. No matter how much the poetic ideal of living "outside the walls" may tickle you childish dreams of adventure, having a warm bed, and food on your table is not just "waiting to die" and feeling trapped is much more pleasant than the feeling of being eaten by cannibals, or enslaved by lawless brigands.  Of course, what teenager is going to want to follow the arbitrary Post Apocalyptic rules of a grumpy oldster like me?

The Eleventh Plague is the tale of Stephen Quinn who, along with his father, travels the pathways of a Post War America which has been ravaged by a weaponized plague released by China. Stephen works as a scavenger and trader, following his abusive grandfather’s missive to avoid contact with others and not to trust anyone. After an accident that leaves his father in a critical condition, Stephen is brought to the seemingly idyllic town of Settler’s Landing where he is welcomed by some, and mistrusted by others. Jeff Hirsh has written a wonderful young adult novel that the 16 year old version of myself would have loved. In my current format, it was harder for me to embrace the impulsive and often ill reasoned action of the books characters, but this is more due to my own personality than any flaws in the writing. Hirsch captures a lot of the topics that teenagers must face, bullying, mistrust of adults and an inability to fit in and does it without coming off as preachy. The story is full of lots of action, a bit of romance and some fun characters for the reader to embrace. I would have loved to learn more about the world he has created. He seems to have put a lot of thought into what actually brought down the world as we know it, but doesn’t spend a lot of time exploring it in the book. I understand the desire to jump right into the story without a bunch of exposition on the fallen world, but as a Post Apocalyptic junkie I would love to see a story set in this world, closer to the initial troubles that brought the world to this point. The Eleventh Plague should definitely appeal to fans of Post Apocalyptic and Dystopian Young Adult novels with its strong message, fascinating world, and a variety of strong and interesting characters that teenagers should easily relate to.

Dan Bittner brings a strong, youthful voice to his reading of this novel, which fits is quite well with the feel of the novel.  He is able to capture to voices of the characters well, while matching the rhythm of the story telling. Some of his dialogue came off uneven, with some voices sounding a bit tinny and lacking the needed natural flow of dialogue,  but I have a feeling this was more of a post production issue than any flaw in his reading. Overall, this was a solid merging of story and narrator. This is my first experience with Dan Bittner as narrator, and I think with the popularity of Young Adult works right now, he definitely will be someone to look out for. Overall, The Eleventh Plague was a good listening experience and Jeff Hirsh is a writer I expect we’ll see more good things from in the future.

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2 responses

12 11 2011
DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks)

Narrators that capture teens appropriately make me very happy.

9 01 2013
Tanya/ dog eared copy

I’m finally getting around to listening to this one! I just started it, but so far I’m really and pleasantly surprised at both the writing and narration! I have a very clear picture and nothing has distracted me from the world being built in my mind… 🙂

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