I’ve read of few of Laurie Halse Anderson’s YA novels. This one is skewed for a slightly younger audience than say, Speak or The Impossible Knife of Memory, but manages an interesting glimpse into the past, led by a strong female character.
Late in the summer of 1793, yellow fever killed an estimated 5,000 people (in a city of 50,000) in less than three months. 20,000 residents fled the city, while the rest waited out the disease as their family and neighbors dropped like flies. Fever 1793 lets us watch the epidemic through the eyes of 14 year old Maddie Cook. Her mother and grandfather run a coffee shop in town, and their serving girl is one of the first to die of the disease. As the summer goes on, Maddie is forced to quickly grow up and find a way to survive.
It’s a well-written book, about a subject that I had no real knowledge of going in. Anderson does a great job of painting a picture of the city — the heat, the filth, the horror of people dying in droves. It’s a very fast read, which works well given the topic. Maddie’s a great character — strong without being superhuman, and determined to survive without leaving the city.