Hardcover, 320 pages
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 hocky 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."
The Fever by Megan Abbott is a highly recommended novel that looks at the dark side of teenage girls and panicked small towns.
Deenie Nash, Lise Daniels, and Gabby Bishop are all sixteen, best friends, and close confidantes who have known each other for years. Deenie lives with her father, Tom, who is a teacher, and her older brother Eli, a handsome, popular hockey player. Deenie and her friends are typical teenage girls trying to navigate their way through the social hierarchy at Dryden High School and make their way to adulthood. Then the unthinkable happens. Lise has a seizure at school and is rushed to the hospital. There seems to be no explanation for what happened and no answers for a concerned community.
The rumors start flying fast and quick when more girls develop symptoms and are hospitalized. Is the CDC being called in because it is a mutant virus? Could the algae growth on the lake be responsible for the strange sickness? Or is the HPV vaccination the true cause? Once the speculation starts, the hysteria ensues. Parents and girls panic even more when the hospital and school tries to keep any cause for the mysterious illnesses quiet. Soon the media is descending, asking questions, but no answers are forthcoming.
The Fever manages to capture perfectly the mind of a teenage adolescent while simultaneously allowing the mystery to deepen. The teens alternate between being young, immature, vulnerable, and self-absorbed to exhibiting shrewd and calculating behavior. These are also young women who are feeling a longing for sexual contact that they are not emotionally prepared for yet.
At the same time, Eli is baffled by much of the attention girls give him and is struggling to try and understand what these girls who are so blatantly throwing themselves at him really want. He is struggling with his own hormones and emotional issues as it relates to all girls, including his sister and her friends.
As a single father, Tom always feels he is one step behind and that he is failing his kids in some way.
It's to Abbott's credit that she depicts these teens just as teens are today. They are texting constantly, always communicating, always in touch. They take pictures of the girls having the seizures. They post videos online. Just as it happens, day in and out, every day, this constant stream of social media helps the misinformation spread and allows the rumors to fly. The abundance of information and misinformation makes it even more difficult and perplexing for Deenie to navigate the social and emotional landscape she must face in order to find some answers.
Excellent writing and a taunt tension add to the already dark mystery that kept me engrossed and turning pages quickly to see what happened next. (I did wish Abbott moved on to what happened next a wee bit quicker in certain spots.)