On My Bookshelf: Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

November 06, 2017

In Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson, the main character Mattie is a plucky teenager who has a strained relationship with her mother and a crush on a local boy, both issues to which modern day teens can relate. As the novel progresses and yellow fever sweeps through the city, Mattie takes on greater responsibility for her family and their family business, a coffee shop. She is forced to make difficult decisions and is a mature young adult by the time disaster subsides. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: An epidemic of fever sweeps through the streets of 1793 Philadelphia in this novel from Laurie Halse Anderson where "the plot rages like the epidemic itself" (The New York Times Book Review).

During the summer of 1793, Mattie Cook lives above the family coffee shop with her widowed mother and grandfather. Mattie spends her days avoiding chores and making plans to turn the family business into the finest Philadelphia has ever seen. But then the fever breaks out.

Disease sweeps the streets, destroying everything in its path and turning Mattie's world upside down. At her feverish mother's insistence, Mattie flees the city with her grandfather. But she soon discovers that the sickness is everywhere, and Mattie must learn quickly how to survive in a city turned frantic with disease.
In Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson, the main character Mattie is a plucky teenager who has a strained relationship with her mother and a crush on a local boy, both issues to which modern day teens can relate. As the novel progresses and yellow fever sweeps through the city, Mattie takes on greater responsibility for her family and their family business, a coffee shop. She is forced to make difficult decisions and is a mature young adult by the time disaster subsides. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

Why I liked it: Fever 1793 is historical fiction set in Philadelphia, my favorite genre set in my hometown. I love being able to picture the real places mentioned in the book. I also like that the novel focuses on an often overlooked period of time in American history. There's lots of historical fiction focused on the events surrounding the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, but not a lot novels that cover the time period in between. In 1793, George Washington is serving as president and the White House is in Philadelphia because the capital had not yet been moved to Washington D.C. 

The main character Mattie is a plucky teenager who has a strained relationship with her mother and a crush on a local boy. Despite the difference in time periods, she is someone modern day teens can relate to. As the novel progresses and yellow fever sweeps through the city, Mattie takes on greater responsibility for her family and their family business, a coffee shop. She is forced to make difficult decisions and is a mature young adult by the time disaster subsides. 


Classroom application: The novel has great connections to history as well as science. Besides the main event of the yellow fever on 1793, the novel also deals with race issues in Philadelphia at the time. The novel could be tied into a science unit on diseases. The fever on 1793 also revolutionized Philadelphia's relationship with water and led to the founding of the Philadelphia Water Works, a way to provide safe, clean drinking water across the city.

If you are also local to the Philadelphia area, there's a great guided walking tour, on which you can visit sites mentioned in the novel.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Fever for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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