Jeff Hirsch has a knack for engaging middle and high school readers (and some adults, too) with his post-apocalyptic scenarios and believable characters. Black River Falls is no exception. If the memory stealing virus doesn’t grab you, the tale of Cardinal and his family will.
Black River Falls publishes Tuesday, July 5, 2016.
Seventeen-year-old Cardinal has escaped the virus that ravaged his town, leaving its victims alive but without their memories. He chooses to remain in the quarantined zone, caring for a group of orphaned kids in a mountain camp with the help of the former brutal school bully, now transformed by the virus into his best friend. But then a strong-willed and mysterious young woman appears, and the closed-off world Cardinal has created begins to crumble.
A thrilling, fast-paced work of speculative fiction for teens, from a bestselling author, Black River Falls is an unforgettable story about survival, identity, and family.
I really enjoyed this book, and I think lots of YA readers will as well. Cardinal, the narrator is easy to connect with, and the slow unfolding of his past is perfectly paced to maintain interest. There is a lot of tension, sometimes warranted, and sometimes not, throughout the story, which made the turns of the plot hard to predict. The entire premise was fascinating, particularly the subplot that brought in the comic books that Cardinal’s father created. It paralleled nicely with his own struggle to be a hero, and I liked the way that sometimes his journey went into the gray areas. It was his faults and failures that made him feel like a real person and not just a character. I did struggle a bit with the transitions between scenes – there was a bit too much of Cardinal suddenly finding himself somewhere, and sometimes the action was a bit blurry, but it wasn’t a deal breaker. I think my guy readers will find this story very engaging, but themes about memories and forgetting and the way those things shape us add some depth that means a wide audience can appreciate this story. It’s definitely going on my high school classroom library wish list. Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.