“As I arranged the clothes in my pack, my hand hit the spine of one of my books. The Lord of the Rings. I found it years before in a Walmart, buried beneath a pile of torn baby clothes and dry leaves. I’d read it start to finish six times, always waiting until after Grandpa went to sleep. He’s said the only thing books were good for was kindling.”
“I flipped through the book’s crinkled pages and placed it at the very top of the bag so it would be the first thing my fingers touched when I reached inside. Doing this gave me a rebel thrill. I didn’t have to worry about Grandpa finding it now.”
-The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch
Summation from Goodreads:
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.
Like many contemporary post-apocalyptic YA dystopias, The Eleventh Plague features a bleak, devastated, virtually unrecognizable United States ravaged by war and disease. Quinn and his family represent a small group of the surviving population who manage to endure by scavenging the countryside for usable goods and food.
Luck does not travel with the survivors though, and Quinn eventually is left on his own until he stumbles upon the town of Settlers Landing. In a classic case of a community looking too good to be true, Quinn eventually is forced to decide what a new society should be, and his role within it.
I found the use of Tolkien’s LOTR particularly interesting. Like Sam, Quinn is forced to face hardship, deprivation, betrayal, fear, and grief. Yet through these challenges, Quinn is eventually shaped into the adult he chooses to be, and determines his own set of values.