Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Release Date: January 1, 2000
Page Count: 272
Goodreads Synopsis: It's late summer 1793, and the streets of Philadelphia are abuzz with mosquitoes and rumors of fever. Down near the docks, many have taken ill, and the fatalities are mounting. Now they include Polly, the serving girl at the Cook Coffeehouse. But fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook doesn't get a moment to mourn the passing of her childhood playmate. New customers have overrun her family's coffee shop, located far from the mosquito-infested river, and Mattie's concerns of fever are all but overshadowed by dreams of growing her family's small business into a thriving enterprise. But when the fever begins to strike closer to home, Mattie's struggle to build a new life must give way to a new fight-the fight to stay alive.
My Background: The only things I knew about Fever 1793 were from the blurb. There was a Fever in the year of 1793, and the story was about Matilda Cook's struggle and journey through the fever-ridden time *cliche*. The reason I picked up this book in the first place was that it was written by Laurie Halse Anderson. This was a very unusual book for me because I haven't picked up a historical fiction novel in ages, but I am very glad I did so. The average rating of the literary elements (plot, characters, writing style, pacing, ending) in this book is 7.1 which is why my rating was 7.75, despite of the overall average being 5 if that was what I was going by.
Plot 9/10: For this being the first historical fiction in a long time, it was a very good book to get me back into the groove. I loved the plot and what happened in it. I feel bad, but there isn't really more ways to say it than that
Romance 6/10: Frankly, there was almost no romance in this novel. Basically there was the amount of romance in a usual historical fiction one, then take away some of it because of the fever. The little moments there were were quite sweet between the 1793 version of a starving artist, and Mattie.
Characters 6/10: My feelings about the main character Matilda Cook, are very mixed. I'm blaming everything on the book being historical fiction, but after everything I've been reading lately (dystopian and contemporary), having old-fashioned female characters, where they can't be strong and independent, is a bit of a character let-down. Mattie or Matilda, was a fine character, somewhat strong, and and attempts to be independent. I didn't feel a strong attraction to her, and I didn't dislike her *double negative alert* What made me slightly dislike Mattie was the fact that I didn't feel a connection to her. Her pain, her struggles, her loss, none of it seemed like it mattered to me, or that it was my own, like how I feel the connection between a reader and a character should be.
What I did like love about Mattie was how much she grew and developed by the end of the story. Her losses made her stronger, and more independent (you can tell I don't own a thesaurus). She thought someone very dear to her had passed, so she took it upon herself to not let everything her family had worked for fall apart, and took the horse by the reins in running the Coffeehouse. She also matured a lot, and gave herself more responsibilities, making her horrible experience change herself for the better.
Cover 3/10: I highly disliked this cover, because it didn't have much symbolism or significant impact. I think if the cover could have been something abstract that would have represented the horror of the fever itself. All I can gauge that's symbolic to the cover is the yellow eye, and the yellow fever.
Title 8/10: My feelings about the title "Fever 1793" actually changed as I was writing this review. I highly disliked it, but then after mulling over it, I realized how powerful it was. Instead of saying "Mattie Cook's Struggle", or "The Fever that Swept the Nation", it was short and simple; Fever 1793.
Pacing 8/10: One of the main praises for "Fever 1793" was from The New York Times Book Review that states
"The plot rages like the epidemic itself."
I don't think the plot was quite as fast as the epidemic, but what I did not feel was that there were any plot gaps, or lulls in the action and sequence of events, so overall the pace wasn't as fast as lightning, but it was very good and consistent.
Writing Style 7/10: This wasn't the Anderson I was used to in most of her books, but a different side, one I ended up enjoying. Mattie Cook's character, and thus her narration was something I had issues with, but the overall style choice words and bluntness was something I did enjoy.
Feels 4/10: The feels of this book weren't very good, as explained in 'Characters', my connection with Mattie wasn't strong or real enough. Everything that I feel I should have felt for and because Mattie didn't happen. The yellow fever was happening, killing hundreds of people including ones Mattie cared about, and I did feel bad that it happened in the past, but not for her.
Ending 8/10: The ending to this book in terms of storyline was executed perfectly. The entire story wrapped up, and although there were character losses, it was happy ending. There was also no real way for there to be a sequel as good as the first book.
Quotes 3/10: To be honest, by now I have read a number of Laurie Halse Anderson books, but this one is the most un-quoteworthy one. I suppose that's because of the whole historical fiction aspect, but I feel like there should have been some gut-wrenching quotes about the disease or the character's losses. The two I ended up choosing were:
"Is your mama here? Or your papa? Perhaps they can fix it." The little girl whispered something. I stepped closer to hear her. "Mama's broken too." she said."
"What did it feel like to die? Was it peaceful sleep? Some thought it was full of either trumpet-blowing angels, or angry devils. Perhaps I was already dead."