I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Fever by Megan Abbott
Published by Little Brown and Company on June 17th 2014
Genres: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Dare Me
The panic unleashed by a mysterious contagion threatens the bonds of family and community in a seemingly idyllic suburban community.
The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie's best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.
As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town's fragile idea of security.
‘You spend a long time waiting for life to start–the past year or two filled with all these firsts, everything new and terrifying and significant–and then it does start and you realize it isn’t what you’d expected, or asked for.’
The Fever centers around the Nash family: 16-year-old Deenie, her 18-year-old brother Eli and their divorced dad, Tom, who is a science teacher at the two siblings high school. On a seemingly ordinary day, Deenie’s friend Lise falls from her school desk convulsing from a seizure. Their friend Gabby suffers a similar incident shortly after and the hysteria swells further when another girl at their high school succumbs to this strange sickness. The reasons range between environmental concerns to a recent vaccine all the girls received but the doctor’s all fail to provide any solution to the problem.
“It has to do with all of them. All of them. Don’t you see? It’s just begun.”
Dare Me made me an instant Abbott fan, primarily due to her most impressive skill of being able to accurately portray teenagers without cutting any corners or lessening the intensity and her skills are on display once again in The Fever. Abbott provides various points of view, separate from the teenagers, including that of Tom who presents the ‘parental’ point of view of the story and allows us a glimpse firsthand the paranoia consuming the town because of these incidents. I found the mystery to be riveting and baffling (yet scarily plausible) but was ultimately left displeased by the perfunctory and almost ambiguous ending. That is until I found out that this story of hysteria in a small town is actually based on a real-life incident in Le Roy, New York. After reading up on a New York Times article detailing this event, Abbott’s story doesn’t stray far from the truth. (If you don’t want to be spoiled, I wouldn’t read up on Le Roy until you’ve finished The Fever.) Knowing that this story is based on truth, only makes it more fearful than it was originally.
Megan Abbott is a truly unique writer, portraying female adolescence in a way that we can all (frighteningly) understand. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.
“We put them at risk just by having them. And the hazards never stop.”
The plot grabs you at the very beginning with a huge shocking “ka-pow” of an introduction. A mysterious illness is ravaging through all the girls of a small town high school. The story continues to be shrouded by false paths and deception. With all of the build-up, the resolution demands to be shocking and in your face. Instead, it could be summed up in three words: Girls are batshit.
“Maybe you bring the darkness inside you. Maybe [she] has it inside her now.”
Fever is full of gorgeous writing that accurately captures so much of a teenage girl’s thoughts and emotions in her relationships and everyday life. Megan Abbott very convincingly describes small-town paranoia and mob mentality during chaos. I was ultimately concerned with my perception that the moral of the story was slut-shaming gone viral, literally. While this book left me feeling unsatisfied, I’m not put off from reading her other works – that’s how beautiful the writing is alone.
For great reads on pandemics, check out Blindness by José Saramago or The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. Want to more of all the joy of snarky teenage girls, look for Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard (for the ultimate Mean Girls) or The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares (for the best friend forever experience).