Hirsch, Jeff. Black River Falls. Houghton Mifflin/ Harcourt Brace 2016 328p $17.99 ISBN 978-0-544-39099-7 ms/hs Conflict VG-BN
In the genre of stories about plagues that turn people into zombies, kill entire communities, reduce villages to death traps or create other insurmountable struggles, Jeff Hirsch has found a voice in this new young adult novel with a twist. That voice is that of Cardinal Cassidy, his protagonist, who tells the story of a new community within the Quarantine Zone that he and (pre-plague) archenemy Greer are running with some of the victims. Cassidy is writing the plot of this creative novel in a journal addressed to his brother Tennant, who, the reader assumes, has become a victim himself. In the exposition the reader finds clarity in the search for a story line that begins this way: Card (Cassidy) and Greer have established a community of children who they are keeping safe amidst the chaos of Black River Falls. While Card is in town one day, he comes across a young woman who is being victimized by two men who hope to convince her that she is the lost wife of one of them. Card saves her, falls in love with her (naturally!) and tries to find a way to build a relationship -- that is, until Greer tells him that he also has feelings for Hannah. As if the reader didn’t have enough conflicts already, Hirsch throws in another big one. A new corporation run by the Marvins has taken over the town, seemingly to help the victims, but it is a ruse. What the Marvins hope to do is clear out the town and rebuild. Extras that add spice to the plot include chance encounters with Card’s mother, a relationship between Card and a National Guardsman who helps the mountain group, the entry of the town librarian, who seems to be seeking out Card for some reason, and an answer to the big question, “What happened to Tennant?” Hirsch masterfully builds in the subplot of Card’s father’s prize-winning comic books whenever Card faces a new conflict, adding a bit of additional spice to an already solid plot. This novel scores a solid 10 in its ability to attract readers to its wonderful writing style, its unique plot and its intriguing character development.
Summary: Post memory-attacking plague, Card and his former worst enemy Greer establish a community known as Lucy’s Promise in which they house children who have no place to go after losing their families. When a corporation takes over the town, Card and Greer struggle to find answers to the question of what is best for their children and for themselves.