Hirsch’s latest (The Darkest Path, 2013, etc.) is an epidemic novel with a twist.
A virus has struck Black River Falls. It doesn't sicken or kill its victims—it simply robs them of their memories. Teenager Cardinal Cassidy is one of the few uninfected in town. Together, he and his former bully-turned–best friend (who is infected) take care of a group of other infected children with nowhere to go. While Cardinal himself has no home to return to, he has everything under control. Then two things happen: he meets a girl, and the National Guard turns the town over to a ruthless private corporation. As the safety of his town is threatened, Cardinal must deal with new feelings and new revelations about the virus. In addition, he must confront the demons of his past. Unfortunately, narrator Cardinal spends so much time meandering into his memories—the story is structured as a “letter” to his older brother, addressed as “you”—that the plot suffers. While there are moments of beauty in Cardinal’s many flashbacks, they often slow down the story’s progress. When things finally pick up and Card must take action to save his town, it’s too little, too late to spice up this book. Cardinal is biracial, with a white dad and possibly African-American mom, but this fact feels almost irrelevant, as it does little to inform his character.
While Hirsch has created what could be an exciting concept, the reality is slow-paced and anticlimactic. (Science fiction. 12-16)