“Chloë, why haven’t you done a book review in FOREVER??”
Well readers, the fact is I’ve been super busy (even though it doesn’t feel like it because I am still uNEmployED) and kept reading and not reviewing. But I am here and I am ready to review.
The Fever by Megan Abbott was the very last book I read on holiday (which was 2 months ago now, bad Chloë bad Chloë) but since I hadn’t finished it by the time I got home, I didn’t include it in my holiday reads. It is now completed and ready to be reviewed.
And my Amazon account just reminded me that I bought it on the 30th of November last year. LAST YEAR. But at least I read it, right?
Deenie, Gabby and Lise are best friends – a tight girl-unit negotiating their way through the troubled waters of their teens, a world of sex, secrets and intense relationships.
When first Lise then Gabby falls prey to a mysterious illness, hysteria sweeps their school and, as more girls succumb, Deenie finds herself an outsider, baffled by the terrifying illness and scared that it could all be because of something she has done.
Suffering with Deenie are her dad and her brother, both protective of Deenie, but each with secrets of their own . . .
This was a really interesting read for me. It was quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before, but definitely had elements of The Crucible by Arthur Miller which is one of my favourite plays.
I love the idea of the mass hysteria sweeping a school and girls becoming more and more agitated by the idea of this unknown disease, all the while with parents pointing fingers and become accusatory.
For me, I actually found Deenie (the protagonist) the least interesting character; whilst I was so intrigued to know what was causing the illness, I found the parents and the other girls far more developed and interesting characters, particularly Gabby and Deenie’s brother, Eli.
The many different theories for the cause of the illness are the centre of the novel, from the mysterious dirty lake that has plagued the town for years, to the HPV vaccine administered to the girls. All these proposed theories highlight the hysterical nature of word-of-mouth, rumour, and parental anxiety. As the characters latch onto the various theories, Abbott reveals a commentary not about illness and disease, but about reaction and fear.
Ultimately, though the premise was very strong, I felt that the conclusion of the story was a little disappointing and by the time I had finished the book, I didn’t really care that much about what happened.
I think Abbott really could’ve ramped it up further, like in The Crucible and had the accusations be more dramatic, isolating and incriminating, which would have amplified the theme of female sexuality and the way in which it stigmatises young girls, which if I’m not mistaken, was a key concept of her novel.
It was interesting how Abbott made it relevant for the 21st century, including technology to transmit the drama, but again, this could’ve been emphasised even further.
I do believe Abbott is a strong writer and I am intrigued to read her other works, but for me, this novel didn’t live up to the excitement the blurb stirred in me.