Thursday, June 26, 2014
Review: The Fever by Megan Abbott
Little, Brown and Company
"The first time, you can't believe how much it hurts."
[[No, they're not talking about that, although they could have been!!]]
Quick, nonspoilery summary:
One day, during class, Deenie Nash's best friend Lise has a seizure. The next day another girl experiences a strange episode, and suddenly the rumors and speculation are flying. The novel is told from the perspective of the Nash family: Deenie, her older brother Eli (also in high school), and her father Tom (a teacher at the high school). It was inspired in part by a real outbreak in an upstate New York high school. You can find a link to that story on Megan Abbott's website.
I didn't love this book, but I thought it was very interesting. The shifting viewpoint was hard to follow at times. I read an advance e-galley, so I don't know if the actual book is set up the same way, but I imagine it is pretty close.
The town and the characters and the hysteria that ensues (or hysterias really even if that's not a word) are captured well. I could believe that I was reading about real teens and a real parent. Their inner lives felt authentic to me. I even thought the town name was perfect, and the lake with its strange water was a great addition.
When I try to think about this book, there is just so much content packed in here: vaccination concerns, environmental issues, teens, sex, and attitudes towards teens and sex and girls who have sex versus boys who have sex (hello, slut-shaming!), group mind, hysteria.
There were things I didn't like. I had a hard time with Gabby's character in particular. I can't really say why, but she just felt less authentic to me, like a device in the story more than a person. Skye too.
But Deenie and Eli in particular just nailed it for me. The teen experience.
I think this would make a great book club book, especially if your book group is good at using a book discussion for launching a wider discussion about society and social issues. Plus, you all would have read the book (in theory), so you wouldn't have to tiptoe around spoilers!
If you like The Fever by Megan Abbott, you might also like Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA) or Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld (not YA). I am strongly tempted to also recommend a couple classics here, The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne or "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, or even a book by the hugely popular John Green, Looking for Alaska.