Friday, June 14, 2013

Reviews From an HBN (Fever 1793 - Laurie Halse Anderson)

Revisiting an old favorite. Let's see how it went!

During the summer of 1793, Mattie Cook lives above the family coffee shop with her widowed mother and grandfather. Mattie spends her days avoiding chores and making plans to turn the family business into the finest Philadelphia has ever seen. But then the fever breaks out.

Disease sweeps the streets, destroying everything in its path and turning Mattie's world upside down. At her feverish mother's insistence, Mattie flees the city with her grandfather. But she soon discovers that the sickness is everywhere, and Mattie must learn quickly how to survive in a city turned frantic with disease.


Wow, I still love that cover!

 I was in the fourth grade when I read this for the first time, and when I picked it up again for the first time in years I was worried I might not love it the same way anymore, that it would seem too "juvenile" as my taste in books evolved.

Not true. It's still every bit as good as it was the first time. Mattie wasn't an insufferable child (something I've noticed tends to be a bit more pronounced in other childhood faves I've reread as I grew older), the language wasn't dumbed down, and there was still the old terror and urgency that made it so appealing in the first place. And bonus points for nostalgia! The chapters are a lot shorter than I've gotten used to, but since this is aimed at younger readers it's only natural, and it made the action move a lot faster.

I still cry and cheer at all the same parts and have greater appreciation, dare I say more learned appreciation, for the extracts heading every chapter. They add a dose of realism that strikes home, giving a personal view of what it was really like that summer in Philadelphia, and it gave me chills. Heck, the whole book still gives me chills! Plague stories scare me as much as dystopia, and this one more so because it's based on historical FACT. The breakdown of social order, the widespread panic, the struggle to survive not just the fever itself but how it impacted everyday life...*shudders* I'm glad I wasn't there for all of that!

So you've got your main event, the big plot element, and now all you need is a good, strong character to drive things along? Gotcha covered. I cared about Mattie in the fourth grade, and I still care about her. She's smart and capable, she can fend for herself when she has to, and she's not some annoying brat that abounds in YA lit. She is still in some ways a child, but you could see she was beginning to grow up and mature, adapting to her circumstances as best she could. All in all, a good, strong character worthy of driving things along.

Bottom line is, it's a tough feat to write a book for young readers that adults can enjoy as well, but I think Ms. Anderson scored with this one.

Your humble book nerd,

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