Anderson, Laurie Halse. Fever, 1793. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2000.
Grade Level: 5-9
Mattie is at the heart of Fever 1793. One learns and feels their way through the Yellow Fever epidemic through her personal experiences. Just a child really at the age of 14 (15 in December), she must grow up all too fast in a world that spins out of control all around her. The book hovers between the absolute depressing, mainly in the manner in which everyone turns on everyone else in their own personal fear, and the sadness of loss, and finally the calm of survival. The book is not about joy, but about peace. The sorrow of loss and the harshness of human nature may be hard on young readers. However, the actual reading level begins more around the 4th grade. Due to subject matter, a teacher may wish to wait until they have a class that can really take the emotional weight or until the kids are older.
The plot of Fever 1793 is simple, chronological, and smooth. There is no abruptness or superfluous additions. The characters are very plain. Although Mattie is obviously the main character, Anderson is very vague in her details. While this may be a problem with some novels, one can see that Mattie, while being the protagonist, is also every man, woman, and child that lived through that awful time. Her lack of completeness as a person only serves to enhance the experience of the story. Some of the dialogue and expressions are an attempt at the language of the time, but it seems to be inconsistent throughout the entire novel. It would almost be better left out then the haphazard attempt in the book. (It took me a couple uses of the word to even figure out what a “necessary” was. After the second time, it started to click, but at first it left me wondering what is this? I’m not sure that most teenagers would pick up this particular quirk of language as quickly.)