The Fever

The Fever by Megan Abbott

“You spend a long time waiting for life to start – her past year or two filled with all these firsts, everything new and terrifying and significant – and then it does start and you realise it isn’t what you’d expected, or asked for.”

The Fever follows Dennie Nash, a young girl caught up in the hysteria of a mysterious illness sweeping through her high school.  It begins with Dennie’s best friend, Lise, as she falls victim to an unexplained seizure.  Lise is quickly hospitalized, leaving doctors unable to explain the culprit.  As additional girls begin to display similar symptoms, panic sets in among parents and students alike leaving the sleepy northeast town reeling.

Megan has proven in the past that she knows her way around the intricate world of high school with her novels “Dare Me” and “The End of Everything”, so it’s no surprise she knocks it out of the park yet again with The Fever.

Megan’s writing is similar to a murky haze that settles over a town slowly wandering through a cloud of confusion.  Parents and children are all desperate to latch onto anything that can possibly explain the illness, as potential solutions fall on deaf ears.  Is it due to poor air quality within the school?  A recent HPV vaccination gone wrong?  Everyone has a theory and no one can confirm the cause.

From this frenzied base is where Megan decides to set the events of The Fever in motion.  Dennie’s relationship with both her once tight-knit family and her friends slowly unravels.  Dennie’s contact with her estranged mother becomes more sporadic when her mother is unwilling to return to Dryden to comfort her daughter.  Dennie’s friends, wrapped in delirium, are becoming distant leaving Dennie with seemingly nowhere to turn for relief from the chaos.

As humans, we often aren’t aware of our true nature until our backs are against the wall, until we’re forced to finally act within our own best interests.  By putting her characters in this situation, it’s like Megan turned the volume up to eleven.  Everyone is seemingly on high alert – emotions are amplified leading to sporadic actions from all involved.  This especially made the book “unputdownable” as I raced through the last one hundred pages while riding the train to Bouchercon two weeks ago.

Although her follow-up novel, You Will Know Me, put an end to her current time writing atmospheric adolescent stories, The Fever stands out as one of her strongest.  Go read it!

I met Megan!

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