- The Eleventh Plague
In this gritty, post-apocalyptic world, it is unclear whether the unlucky ones were the individuals who quickly died during war or a horrific strain of influenza (the titular plague), or the ones who escaped those fates only to try to survive in a world that offers little food, safety, or opportunities beyond another day of breathing and scavenging. Fifteen-year-old Stephen loses his remaining family over the course of a couple of gut-wrenching days, and he suddenly finds himself alone with plenty of survival knowledge but very little ability to actually engage with or trust people. He ends up at Settler’s Landing, a tight community that ultimately welcomes him, even as his arrival stirs internal troubles that have been long brewing. Stephen just wants something that looks and feels like home, and the harsh outside world, particularly in contrast with the almost eerily cozy baseball and family dinner–style haven that Settler’s Landing represents, is unrelentingly awful to such an extreme that readers will likely be as relieved as Stephen that he lands anywhere at all still alive and certainly scathed but not broken. Pair this with Treggiari’s Ashes, Ashes (reviewed below) for compelling glimpses into the fragility of settlements in a dying world.