Fever 1793

By Laurie Halse Anderson,

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Why read it?

3 authors picked Fever 1793 as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

When I first read Fever 1793—set in Philadelphia during a yellow fever epidemic—I thought it was a well-written and thought-provoking glimpse into how people would respond in a crisis. After re-reading it post-pandemic, I would now add “prophetic.” Mattie is a typical grumpy teen who would rather have fun than work in her family’s coffee house. But there is a deadly fever rapidly spreading through the city. Desperation unleashes her inner strength, allowing her to prevail over disease, fear, food shortages, unscrupulous thieves, and well-intentioned but poorly-managed medical science.

From Elizabeth's list on fish out of water” historical novels.

This historical YA novel is remarkable for its sensitive and vivid portrayal of the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. I recommend it for kids and teens looking for historical analogs to our present moment. I strongly believe that an understanding of the past is the best way to contextualize the present. 

A fast-moving plot, poignant drama, wonderful historical details. In Philadelphia, 1793, people first deny that yellow fever is back in town after a thirty-year absence. They try to blame the “dirty refugees” coming in by boat. No one wants their world to be suddenly overthrown like this, their lives torn apart, their parents and children and friends dying. But that kind of change is always possible and always pertinent. Fever 1793 brings this reality to life, with a completely believable main character and compelling verisimilitude.

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