Stephen has no one except his father left. They travel a trading path back and forth throughout the year, working as scavengers, and trying to survive on what little they can find or trade for. Stephen has lived this way for years; he knows no other life.
When he and his father encounter slavers (those who are trying to capture people and sell them into slavery), his father is severely injured and they are rescued and taken in by people from a town called Settler's Landing. Stephen's father is in a coma, and the doctor is doing the best she can to take care of him and also to make Stephen feel welcome and secure. But it isn't easy for Stephen. He has been taught to trust no one, and to stay away from people. This town has a school, and a park, and enough food to eat, but Stephen can't believe there isn't more to the story.
There are the "bad guys" in the town, who run everything and don't think they need to contribute. They are opposed to the town taking in any new citizens, and think that Stephen must be a spy. Stephen eventually gets to know Jenny, who is Chinese, and therefore is discriminated against (the war was with the Chinese.) She's rebellious and defiant, and she and Stephen have a strange bond. Because of a prank that Stephen and Jenny play, all hell breaks loose, and Settler's Landing is at risk.
The beginning of The Eleventh Plague is exciting and tense. But after that, it's just a story of a kid, torn from everything he knows, trying to fit into a new environment. The progression from distrust to trust is realistic. The relationships that Stephen eventually forms are true. I just didn't find The Eleventh Plague to be all that exciting. It's not that it is a bad book, it just wasn't what I was expecting from an apocalyptic novel.
There's some more tension at the end when the town is fighting against all odds for survival, and of course, Stephen turns out to be the hero. But it was rather cliche.
The Eleventh Plague is more likely to entertain younger, middle school kids. It is simply written and easy to follow. Even though every minute isn't life-threatening, there's plenty here for kids to grab onto.
The narrator, Dan Bittner, does a good job. His voice changes for different characters enough to decipher whose talking, but not in an annoying way. I would recommend this audio as an easy one for kids to listen to.
Published by Scholastic, 2011. Audio by Scholastic Audiobooks.
Audiobook obtained from Sync YA Literature
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