Wednesday, July 20, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Black River Falls by Jeff Hirsch

I received this ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

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.

This one was a bit of a letdown. The premise sounded awesome: a town under quarantine because of mysterious illness that wipes away your memory, a mysterious girl . . . it sounded very exciting. The problem was that everything was just blah. I have been saying that about a lot of books lately. Maybe it's them or maybe it's me. Who knows?

First of all, the mysterious girl didn't really move the plot along like the premise would suggest. She was just a girl who showed up and didn't know who she was. Join the club. That was pretty much everyone in town. There was some mystery about how she got to the town or why she was there, but it wasn't super exciting, especially when the author never revealed that information. She was just a girl for the main character (Card) to crush on.

The entire book is basically a letter that Card is writing to his brother, Tennant. I think the problem with this book was that the pacing was so slow and there wasn't much of a plot for the first half of the book. Card looks after this group of kids who live on top of the mountain, separate from the rest of the town. Card has not been infected with the virus so he remembers how bad things got when people lost their memories. Greer is his friend and is infected. Greer is an ex bully who now looks after quite a few of the kids from town who have no family to speak of. Card spends his time not doing much of anything really. I still don't understand his role. They all lived at the top of the mountain, apart from the rest of the town. Card wears a mask and gloves to try and prevent infection and he also spends as little time as possible around Greer and the kids. He keeps himself at a distance from everyone else and spends his time chopping wood or just sitting. Sounds kind of boring, right? It was. I can imagine that the worst thing in the world would be for your parents to completely forget you or for you to forget them. For half of the book, it seems like Card kept obsessing over this fact. When he wasn't obsessing over his mom (who had no memory of him), he was yelling at poor Greer and Hannah (the mysterious girl) for not taking the virus seriously enough. 

A little more than halfway through, the plot and the action starts picking up. The second half focuses on the National Guard pulling out of the town and a new security firm taking over. There was some more explanation about the virus and how it started, but the problem was that this information wasn't given nearly enough attention. I liked the conclusion; I just wish there had been more around the virus and what caused it and even more discord between the citizens and the government. But the whole walking around and moping thing wasn't cutting it for me. In the end, this one did not live up to the premise.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one.


  1. Do you think the pacing was slow because it's the story of the aftermath instead of the beginning? Also, the epistolary format can sometimes slow things down for me. It's too bad. I love the barebones of the story.

    1. Good question, Joy. Maybe you have a point. There is more action before and during a crisis like this than after. The premise was a good one though. It wasn't a bad story, just a little too slow for me. Oh well

  2. Sadness. I was hoping that this would be good, because like you said, the premise was amazing! But I don't really need to read about people moping around, I can go mope around myself 😂 Looks like this one is getting booted off my list.

    Is it bad that I want you to like, go ahead and read every book on my TBR so I know if it is worth it? (Yes, that is bad haha)

    1. Shannon, ha great point! I mope sometimes anyway so I really don't need to read about it too. :) And no, it's not bad that you want me to read every book on your TBR. I want the same thing!! One of my books on my TBR came up for sale on Amazon and I had forgotten who recommended it and I wasn't sure I wanted to get it. I immediately went to your Goodreads page to see if you had read it. You gave it four stars so that was good enough for me. Sold!