Mathilda Cook, better known as Mattie, is your typical teenager living in Philadelphia with her mother and grandmother, during the year 1793. Mathilda, too young to be taken seriously by her mother and too old to be treated like a small child constantly bickers with her mother. She has a crush on the apprentice of the town painter, even though her mom has better matches in mind. Despite helping her mother run their coffee house, Mattie still doesn’t feel as if she’s being given enough credit for her responsibilities. The book begins with the death of a close friend, who died of the yellow fever. As Mattie and her mother try to keep up appearances and live their daily routines, they can’t help but notice the rising death toll of those inflicted with the yellow fever. As the yellow fever spreads across the city, Mattie is separated from her family, and must soon learn to make some difficult choices about her life and her future.
Mattie is a strong-willed character in the novel, she takes after her mother, and is determined to fight her way through this epidemic. Although separated from her mother, Mattie still manages to stay optimistic and is resourceful in helping others. The story is chilling, when you think about this kind of wide-spread death toll in such a short amount of time. The medicinal treatments at the time did more harm than good. Dr. Benjamin Rush, although ahead of his time in other fields, fell far behind in terms of valid treatments for the fever. While French doctors prescribed rest, fresh air and lots of fluids, Dr. Rush encouraged blood letting, forced vomiting and diarrhea, elements that most likely killed more people than saved.
I really enjoyed Fever 1793, although not as much as I enjoyed Anderson’s other work, Wintergirls. I liked Fever 1793 for the historical setting, and particularly the appendix in the back with more historical tidbits. Mattie is a wonderful role model and a character most girls can relate to.Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2002 ISBN 0689848919 272 pages
Don’t forget to enter the Its My Birthday, Book Giveaway, contest being held all this month. The first winner will be selected next Wednesday, Septmeber 9th.