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1793 Fever

I am starting a new job and a new chapter in my life. Or am I going back to an old chapter?

At any rate - I will be teaching middle school writing and literature starting this fall - and that means I get to read a ton of books this summer to choose a reading list for next year. You know what that means?

Yea - you all get to read book reviews and book reviews and more book reviews . . .

In fact, between doing the last revisions for The Brooch and reading all this middle school literature, I will be in heaven and doing the one thing I never tire of doing.

But - back to the point. I picked up 1793 Fever by Laurie Hasle Anderson out of a pile - somewhere - because of the cover. I then tossed it aside thinking it was dystopian, and dystopian is the one thing I won't usually just pick up without a reason.

The book turned over, and I saw Philadelphia, and then I understood it was talking about 1793, and it was actually an historical about the yellow fever epidemic that year. And so, you guessed it, I hung onto it. When I took this job, I picked it up and read it. I was not disappointed despite the fact it was a youth book.

The 1793 Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic was particularly harrowing even for a time when epidemics were common. Between the 1st of August and the 9th of November, 5,000 people were officially registered as having died in a city of 50,000. Most died of yellow fever. The peak number of deaths occurred in October when frost killed the mosquitoes and the deathrate began to decline. It was not, however, discovered that mosquitoes were the cause until the 19th century.

The book opens with fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook in an untroubled world. She is tired of listening to her mother. She is tired of working in the small ordinary her mother runs (like a small cafe). She dreams of adventures and nice dresses.

And then, her friend dies, and yellow fever wraps its warped arms around the city of Philadelphia and Mattie Cook.

The plot is driven and fast-paced. The characters are well-drawn, and Mattie's transformation from a young, carefree girl into a force determined to survive is exceptionally well written. Even Philadelphia becomes a character as it descends into the madness of the fever and wallows in the depths of despair.

And then, summer fades into fall, the fever releases its hold, and Mattie faces a far different future, for better or worse, then she did before yellow fever changed her world.

The book has won a whole host of awards and for good reason, and it's a highly recommended book for all ages.

Five stars from me!

Laurie Halse Anderson can be reached at her website here.

To purchase a copy from Amazon go here.

To read more about the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 go here.

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