Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: Juvenile Historical Fiction
Published in 2000
Recommended Age Group: 12 and Up
Summary: Fever 1793 is about the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia that happened in the late summer of 1793. We follow the epidemic through Matilda Cook and her small group of family and friends. In the beginning of the book Matilda, her Mother, and her Grandfather ran a Coffee Shop. Matilda’s Mother is planning to get her married but Matilda already has her eye on Nathaniel Benson, a painter’s apprentice. They employed a cook, Eliza and a serving girl Polly. Matilda’s Mother got upset when Polly was late and made Matilda do all her chores which she was upset about until she learned that Polly had died mysteriously the night before. Rumors and gossip start to spread about a sickness and since they run the Coffee Shop Matilda and her family get to hear all about it. At first they don’t worry until they hear of more and more fever cases and of people leaving town to escape the fever. After the Mayor was certain it was Yellow Fever rules were set down and panic began. Matilda’s Mother got sick and Matilda and her Grandfather tried to leave town but the neighboring cities would not let them through.
After being stranded without food or water Matilda caught yellow fever and her Grandfather took her to a hospital of sorts to be treated. When they were released they went back to the Coffee Shop but Matilda’s Mother and Eliza were gone. Fearing the worst they shut themselves inside the house. That night thieves broke in and killed Matilda’s Grandfather but were scared away. Matilda wandered through the city alone and found a little girl named Nell with the body of her mother, a fever victim. She took the girl and found Eliza and together they took care of other sick and survived the fever. Nathaniel also survived the fever and he helped Matilda pick up the pieces from the Coffee Shop. All this time Matilda’s Mother was still missing and everyone began to worry that she died. She returned home in a huge gathering that followed President Washington back into town. They figured that if it was safe for him it was safe for everyone. The fever changed everyone greatly, some were better, some worse, but they were all different.
Personal Notes: Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres because I can learn while being entertained. One of the great things about this book is that in the back Anderson made a list of what was factual in the book and told more about each thing so the reader can separate the truth from the story. The story was very engaging and true to life. I enjoyed Matilda’s triumphs and growth through the book. I read the summary on Amazon before I bought the book and it didn’t do it justice. It’s a great read and a lot more fun than it sounds.