I wasn’t sure what to expect from Black River Falls by Jeff Hirsch. I knew the book was about a quarantined town, and that’s about it. Really, that’s all I need to suck me into a young adult book. I like books with a darker premise. While I felt this particular novel took a few chapters to really get going, I thought Hirsch did a fantastic job at looking into what family means when memories are gone.
Cardinal, or Card as the kids he helps take care of call him, is one of the very few who weren’t infected by a virus that strips people of their memories. Interestingly, this virus was only distributed in one town. While the government and other aid groups like the Red Cross initially helped with the fallout, now a new company is coming in to maintain the quarantine zone. Card doesn’t trust the company, as he shouldn’t.
What I found more interesting than the actual plot of the story was Card’s backstory. Because he was one of the few people who had memories, you could sense his inner turmoil over trying to be friends with the former bully. As Card finds more people from his past, he begins telling more about his past. I really felt for the kid. I don’t know if I could have stayed in a situation like that, just hoping my loved ones would one day remember who I was while trying to not catch the same virus that made them forget.
My main problem with the novel was that I just had a really hard time getting into it. I can usually read a book in one or two sittings. This book took me over a month. I really liked the ideas behind this book, but I think without Card’s backstory, I would have stopped reading it all together. It wasn’t a bad book, it wasn’t a good book. Black River Falls had some good points about what it means to be a family and the importance of memories, but I think the book itself could have been better executed with better pacing, better supporting characters, and a more enticing plot.
Sarah Emily Lelonek has a BA in English Literature from Kent State University. She is currently enrolled at Tiffin University in their Master’s of Education program. She enjoys traveling and gaming while on breaks from working on her novel.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Clarion Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.