Monday, November 26, 2007

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

After our visit to Philadelphia and as we moved on to the early 19th century, I stumbled upon this book at the library. We had just read about Blanchard's balloon launch from what is now Washington Square in Philadelphia, so it was fun that the book opened with the main character, Mattie, attending this same launch.

The balloon quickly fades into the background, though, as one of Mattie's childhood friends dies of a mysterious fever and soon, terror has gripped much of Philadelphia. Mattie is separated first from her mother then from her cherry grandfather, and has to figure out how to get through the crisis on her own.

I really appreciated how Anderson describes late 18th century city life and how it breaks down when fear causes people to abandon the people in their communities. I also liked Mattie's friendship with Eliza, the (free) black cook at her mother's restaurant, with whom she is reunited when she finds Eliza nursing the sick in a poor neighborhood.

It's a strong, interesting book with a smart, courageous 14-year-old girl at its center. Definitely worth a read.

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