Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Classroom Book Review: Fever 1793

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Pages: 256
Genre:  YA Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: March 1, 2002
My Rating:

Goodreads says, "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."

It's the summer of 1793 in Philadelphia and Mattie Cook, an average teenager, works at her family's coffeehouse with the hope that it will one day become extremely successful.  Just like any teenager, she has high hopes for her life.  One day the family's servant pretty much drops dead and Philadelphia finds itself with an epidemic on its hands: Yellow Fever.  Unfortunately, her mother catches it and insists that Mattie and her grandfather leave the city for the country.  Meanwhile, Philadelphia turns into a ghost town and the town's citizens are in for a wild ride until the first frost, which will hopefully stop the epidemic, but that isn't for a few months!  Mattie wonders how she will survive in a world filled with such disease and dread.  Laurie Halse Anderson's Fever 1793 is a haunting novel and even the most reluctant readers will find themselves devouring it.

This book is extremely popular at my school and when I mentioned this book in an earlier post about my classroom library, many people didn't know too much about it.  Fever 1793 is a well-researched historical fiction that possesses litany of interesting information that always leaves my students either shocked and/or extremely intrigued.  There is even a section at the end of the novel about the history of the Yellow Fever and other resources for readers who want even more information.  And that's the beauty of this novel....the Yellow Fever epidemic actually occurred in Philadelphia and a lot of the information Andersen presents in the novel is true as well.  The students are always shocked by this and many pursue research on the topic, which always pleases the history teacher.  

Anderson's writing is brilliant. I can always count on this book to interest a reluctant reader.  It doesn't matter if they are a boy or a girl; simply said, middle schoolers love this book!  Be forewarned that Fever 1793 does have a serious tone and it include a few gruesome descriptions, which always excites the middle school boys, but it doesn't take away from the plot and Anderson's message.  

Fever 1793 is often overlooked, but it's a must-read for any middle school student or fan of young adult historical fiction.  Mattie's story is a crazy ride, but it's a ride that readers will be glad to take.  

*One of my goals this school year is to review more of my classroom favorites here on my blog as I feel a lot of them are overlooked by either YA fans or my students.  I hope you enjoy my new feature!


  1. I have heard so many wonderful things about Anderson's work, yet I have yet to read any of her books (*hangs head in shame*). Thank you for this review!

  2. Have you ever checked out her other historical YA, CHAINS? The sequel, FORGE, is coming out soon and Laurie will be in the Philadelphia area in early November.

  3. Love your new feature! I'll know where to direct people when they need recommendations for their middle grade kids!

    I actually have this sitting on my shelf at home. It sounded interesting and I was going to use it for a challenge on the College Students group on Goodreads. But then I never got around to it. I really loved Speak so, even though they are vastly different, I hope I love this one too!

  4. Thanks for stopping by, guys!

    Sara- I have read part of Chains aloud to my students. I heard it was incredible. I have it on my classroom library's bookshelf, but haven't finished it. Forge seems awesome. I need to check that out. Thanks for the heads up about her coming to Philly. That's very exciting.

  5. Wow, sounds exciting. I studied History of Medicine in college and epidemics were never this interesting. Clearly, I was reading the wrong stuff! I'm excited to check out her book(s). Thanks for such a thorough review!


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