Debut novelist, Jeff Hirsch, gives readers a wild ride in THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE (Scholastic, September 2011). Hirsch's editor, David Levithan, talked about this book at the fabulous Scholastic brunch as one that would stand out from the usual dystopic future YA novel. Thanks to an incredibly complex teen character, it does. Steven is 15 and has been traveling the wasteland that used to be America with his grandfather and his father for several years. They are salvagers (not scavengers) who eke out a living by scouring the landscape for any little bit of "treasure" they can find. Now grandfather is dead and Steven and his father are running from slavers. What Steven finds is a group of people willing to share what they have with others; this is something Steven has never experienced, and he is wary of their seeming kindness. Could it really be genuine? <288>
There is not much world building here as the America in which Steven and his family have survived is still mostly destroyed. Small communities are targets for slavers and marauding armies. Only a handful have survived, and the residents are seemingly pitted against one another for the precious little that sustains humanity. Philosophical issues are, of course, examined as Steven and his father and later the other people with whom he comes in contact talk about what created the war that has destroyed our country and its ideals.