Review: The Fever by Megan Abbott
Published by Back Bay Books, Little Brown and Company on June 17th 2014
Genres: Coming of Age, Horror, Thrillers
The panic unleashed by a mysterious contagion threatens the bonds of family and community in a seemingly idyllic suburban community.The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie's best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community. As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town's fragile idea of security. A chilling story about guilt, family secrets and the lethal power of desire, THE FEVER affirms Megan Abbott's reputation as "one of the most exciting and original voices of her generation."**Laura Lippman
The Fever by Megan Abbott is eerily captivating. It is a coming of age tale that explores all the normal pressures and miles stones high school brings. But in addition to the typical topics of sex and social circles, this book brings in addition stress for the kids of Dryden. It starts with one girl, Lise, one of Deenie’s closest friends. During class, she falls quite ill, suffering a mysterious illness. Getting information on exactly what is wrong with her is hard, all Deenie learns is that she seems to be sicker.
The story focuses closest on Deenie Nash, but we also get perspectives from her father Tom, who is a teacher at the high school, as well as her brother Eli who is a star of the hockey team, and evidently every teen girl’s fantasy. I enjoyed all three perspectives. Deenie is a good kid, who is questioning a recent decision she made quite impulsively. A decision she can’t take back or change and she worries what impact it may have. She also is worried for her friends as the first two girls afflicted are her two closest friends.
Abbott does a wonderful job capturing both the mystery behind the ailments that are afflicting the girls of this town as well as the town’s reaction. Of course there is a contingent of people looking to blame the vaccinations, there are rumors about the lake which has eerie phosphorescent algae blooming in it and poor Deenie is left seeing herself as the common denominator between the girls and tries to blame herself.
To me, the story is not just about why these girls are getting sick, but also about how they are treated and the reaction of classmates and parents. It shows how fear can cause people to scramble to place blame, how sometimes in the face of fear, for some individuals, tearing others down for some reason becomes more important than holding each other up.
The book also has an eerie tone to it, the lake especially comes across as rather ominious, and some of the nightmares that come from it are rather frightening and disturbing. I am still not sure I would normally classify this as horror, but it certainly has some aspects to it that one would typically find in horror. There is suspense, and speculation for the cause of these mysterious ailments. And there is the fear of Who is Next?
I really enjoyed this book. It was quick and different, and I love when there is some mystery and we are left wondering if it will be a super natural cause or not. This is one of those books, you can’t help but speculate there is something evil lurking in the water, but you are not quite sure if it is just rumor and gossip, something supernatural, or possibly some environmental impact caused by pollutants. And if its not the lake? Then you are still left with similar questions about the vaccine, other aspects of the girls’s lives. You just don’t know, and that is why it is scary. And to be honest, sometimes the scariest causes are the ones you never think of.