Second Look: THE FEVER by Megan Abbott


Title: The Fever

Author: Megan Abbott

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Adult Fiction

What It’s About:  Told in alternating points-of-view of one family, THE FEVER explores what happens when a high school is overrun by a mysterious, undiagnosable illness after one girl has an intense seizure during class.  The plot focuses on how the victim’s best friend (Deenie, one of the POV characters) reacts and tries to understand what’s happening; Deenie’s brother, Eli (another POV character) tries to understand why the girls in school are suddenly acting strangely; and Deenie’s father, Tom (another POV character), a single-father and Biology teacher at the school, tries to keep his daughter safe, while trying to understand what exactly is going wrong.

Based on true events from Le Roy NY, Abbott interjects current issues in the United States, such as cliques and the anti-vaccination debate.

Thoughts:  I couldn’t put it down, let me just start by saying that.  Abbott, who’s an Edgar Award winning author, tells a great story.  The characters are sympathetic, and she doesn’t give anything away.  I had NO idea what was really happening to these girls.  With the idea in mind that it was all fabricated, I couldn’t piece it together.  The ending, then, shocked me.

Throughout the story, I really felt for Deenie.  She’s a teenager who’s trying to navigate high school without a mother figure.  (The mother left the family a few years previously and Deenie hasn’t forgiven her.)  She’s trying to figure out where she stands in the small circle of friends she has, and her jealousy flairs when she feels someone intruding on her “territory”.  Abbott uses Deenie to show the confusion, not only of high school life, but of life itself and the tragedies that sometimes befall us.

On the other end, Tom (Deenie’s father) is trying extremely hard to raise his daughter the right way without his wife’s help.  He’s worried about keeping her safe and protecting her from the harms of the outside world, but realizes that she’s not a baby anymore and has to do things her own way.  I liked that Abbott added this POV character, because it allows the reader to see both ends of the spectrum — the child’s reactions, and the parent’s.

Aside from the flow of the storytelling and the extremely well-developed characters, the story is so realistic.  With all the current debate between anti-vaccination protestors and the HPV vaccine that was released a few years ago, Abbott keeps the reader interested if only because they want to know if the vaccine was really the cause.  (Spoiler alert: It’s not.)  Or, if the toxic lake (from fracking?  Pollution?) is the culprit.

A Note on Age:  While this book is written for adults, and takes place in a high school, teenagers would enjoy it just as much.  There’s a little bit of sex, but nothing overwhelming or that they aren’t already familiar with.  I think they’d connect with Deenie AND Eli, who are both in high school.  I’d recommend this to teens 15+, as well as adults.

Rating: 9/10 stars.

For those in the area…

Megan Abbott will be at the Easton Area Public Library’s Palmer Branch on May 21, 7pm, to talk about this novel, as well as sign copies.


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