Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Review~ Fever, 1793; Laurie H. Anderson

A young adult novel, set in 1793 Philadelphia, follows 14 year old Matilda Cook as she helps her mother run the family coffee house at the beginning of the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 (an actual event). Dramatic & painful events overtake the little family forcing Matilda to mature rapidly & take charge of her future at a young age. Leavened by scenes with Matilda's love interest, Nathaniel Benson,& her mother's attempt to marry Matilda 'up' socially, Fever is serious in tone & subject.

Halse deftly reveals an accurate portrait of the various social classes without belaboring the point. Actual historical figures & events are woven into the narrative of a harried businesswoman trying to juggle too many balls with too few resources in a dangerous & difficult year. At the end there is a touch of romance & hope that had me smiling, although my 13 year old daughter said the overall tone is sad despite Matilda's new prospects.

Fever only took one afternoon to read, & isa richly detailed character study set in colonial Philadelphia during the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. If you or a schoolage reader like historical novels with a serious tone leavened with a touch of romance, try Fever. Halse has written several other young adult novels, one of which (Speak) has won several national awards for quality children's literature.

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