A review of The Fever, by Megan Abbott
When sixteen-year-old Deenie’s best friend Lise has a seizure at school, it is a terrifying moment. But what follows is even worse, as Lise’s condition worsens and she is admitted to hospital in a coma.
Soon other girls begin to fall ill with the same mysterious symptoms, and a wave of panic begins to spread throughout the town, fuelled by the media. Desperate for an explanation, parents blame first the recent HPV vaccine that the girls received, then pollution, drugs and anything that might be affecting their children.
At the centre of the storm, Deenie is desperate to understand what is happening to her friends and fears that she may also fall victim to the sickness.
From the start, this is an intense novel that manages to capture the essence of life as a teenage girl. The story is written in an often dreamlike prose, which is infused with adolescent longing but also something else, something darker and more feverish.
The perspective shifts between Deenie; her older brother Eli, who is one of the school’s star athletes; and their father Tom, a science teacher at the same school. All three become caught up in the strange events that are overtaking their town, but it affects them all in different ways. Despite being a loving, although troubled family, thanks to estrangement of the children’s mother, all three exist separately from one another, never quite understanding what is going on in the lives of the other family members.
For Deenie, the illness affecting her friends proves isolating. As those around her become ill, she worries that a recent trip to the town’s lake, which is polluted and thick with luminous algae, might be to blame. But she’s afraid to reveal this secret, even as everyone around her is speculating on the cause of the mysterious illness. As more and more people become ill, yet Deenie remains untouched, she becomes a figure of suspicion, revealing just how overwhelming the hysteria among the townspeople has become.
But Deenie’s biggest concern is always her relationships with her friends. Abbott manages to capture perfectly the way teenage girls envy their friends’ other relationships, or how pretty and effortlessly cool they appear. They don’t realise that their friends have the same worries and fears, or envy the same things in other people. In this novel, this feeling almost becomes supernatural; it is so intense and ultimately plays a big part in the outcome of the story.
This is a novel that will sweep you up and carry you along with the fear and hysteria that has been brought to life in this community. It’s an examination of how trauma can affect us in the strangest ways and how desire can be hard to control. An intense and worrying read.
Find out more about the book:
The Fever on Amazon (affiliate link)
The Fever on Goodreads
Release date: June 19th 2014
Please note: I received an advance copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of writing a review, but all opinions are my own.