Tuesday, July 05, 2016
Black River Falls
Hirsch, Jeff. Black River Falls
July 5th 2016 by Clarion Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Black River Falls, New York has been beset by Lassiter's Viral Retrograde Amnesia and is quarantined. The National Guard is keeping the infected citizens inside a boundary, but sending help in the form of food and clothing. When the virus first hit, there was a lot of violence and confusion, but things have settled down. Sadly, anyone who caught Lassiter's has no memory of their previous life, although skills and general knowledge seem to be little affected by the virus. Cardinal Cassidy is an exception-- he hasn't caught the virus yet, but continues to stay in the area to help take care of a small group of children, helped by Greer. Since Cardinal can remember what life was like before, he tries to help identify anyone who comes into the community, so when he saves a girl with green hair from being attacked by the town's ruffians, he tries to help her find her identity. When he can't, the children give her the name of Hannah, and she helps out as well. Soon, the government will pull out, and a company called Martison Vine will take over. The only problem is that they want to be able to reopen Black River Falls, so intend to send all of the residents to a secure camp in a location like Arizona. Cardinal has many reasons to stay in the area. The book is in the form of a note to his brother Tennant, and as things unfold in the present, we also learn about Cardinal's past. His father was a noted comic book artist whose main character, Cardinal, meets an end similar to the reality that has befallen Cardinal. When these past events become too much for Cardinal to bear, he tries to get infected with the virus, only to find that he is immune.
There's a lot going on in this dystopian adventure: survival with limited resources, family problems, mysterious characters with unexplained backgrounds. Like Hirsch's The Eleventh Plague and The Darkest Path, Black Rivers Falls gives us a character who is fighting not only against the horrors that have befallen his community, but against his own personal demons. His relationship with Greer, who was completely different before he lost his memory, is interesting, and the town librarian is a fascinating character as well as the key to many of Cardinal's problems.
Readers who like The Maze Runner, Garcia's Contaminated or Haddix's The Always War will find Black River Falls to be a compelling read that makes them question whether it is better to remember the past, even when it is fraught with problems, or to remember it and remain true to themselves.
This is a little slow paced for many middle school readers, but I think I will buy a copy. There's nothing inappropriate for middle school, just a lot of philosophical meandering. My more mature 8th graders will like this one.