Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
September 1, 2000
Gifted (as paperback, originally)
It’s late summer 1793, and the streets of Philadelphia are abuzz with mosquitoes and rumors of fever. Down near the docks, many have taken ill, and the fatalities are mounting. Now they include Polly, the serving girl at the Cook Coffeehouse. But fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook doesn’t get a moment to mourn the passing of her childhood playmate. New customers have overrun her family’s coffee shop, located far from the mosquito-infested river, and Mattie’s concerns of fever are all but overshadowed by dreams of growing her family’s small business into a thriving enterprise. But when the fever begins to strike closer to home, Mattie’s struggle to build a new life must give way to a new fight-the fight to stay alive.
I enjoyed Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson so much, I figured this historical fiction would be a favorite. But where Speak handles pertinent, “older” YA concepts, Fever 1793 is definitely more a middle grade.
That isn’t to say it was poorly written- it was filled with researched history and I learned a great deal. It was just more shallow/lower stakes than expected, didn’t have much in the way of world-building detail, and I never really connected with any of the characters.
If you’re a teacher or primary school librarian, you’ve probably read this one and it’s a great teaching tool about American history. Otherwise, it’s probably not going to hold your interest for long. Luckily, it’s a quick read. I can’t bring myself to give it a C rating, because it isn’t poorly written, but I lean more toward a B-.