The Fever by Megan Abbott: Review


the feverWhen I heard the premise of The Fever, I knew I had to read it. Back in March, I listened to the podcast, The Mysterious Case of Convulsing Cheerleaders, which is fascinating. Human brains are so weird!

In The Fever, the affliction strikes a suburban town high school. On an ordinary morning, a girl has a seizure in the middle of class. No one knows why. Not long after, another girl, a friend of the first girl, passes out at an assembly. Soon several girls are exhibiting strange behaviours: ticks and twitches. What is the cause of these symptoms? Is it pollution of the nearby lake? Something in the school? Recent vaccinations?
 The Fever by Megan Abbott is told through the point of views of three members of the Nash family: Deenie, her Dad Tom, and brother Eli. Deenie is best friends with the first afflicted girl, Tom is a teacher at the high school, and Eli a clueless hockey jock. Deenie and her friends are privileged, popular girls, headed by Gabby, a dark haired beauty other girls clamour to be around. As more girls in her group fall ill, Deenie wonders if she’s next. The school tries to conduct business as usual, but when officials arrive with questions and parents come up with wild conspiracy theories for why their kids are sick, hysteria sets in.

Abbott sends readers chasing theories and wondering what is going on in this town. Some parents blame the HPV vaccination, but why is this town the only one afflicted? There’s the lake that sounds like something out of a horror movie. Then there’s the girls themselves, with their secrets and petty jealousies. It was interesting to see how other people saw the girls. The parents believed they were just trying to protect their precious baby girls. Others, men and boys in particular, almost fetishized their adolescent femininity, pondering their long hair, and giggly secrets. I found it disturbing. Sex, particularly loss of virginity, is treated like a transcendental experience. The girls are both afraid and anxious to lose it. The adults in a hurry to vaccinate them, before the boys get to them: “They never get sick. They just make everyone else sick.”

The Fever in many ways reminded me of all the reasons why I hated high school. The cliques, the constantly questioning where you stood in your own group, the jealousies, and whispering. I’d never want to do it again.

Abbott drops red herrings, some almost supernatural; I was frustrated by this, especially since by the end they drift off into the ether... like they never existed. Other little hints are dropped here and there until the end they all come together and seem to make sense. At the time though, it just created confusion. I thought the reasons for the illness were going to be a lot different because of the tone of the writing. So, I’m not sure how I feel about the ending. Just not sure. I’ve discussed some of this with other readers who weren’t sure about the end either, though they seemed to have different reasons than I did for feeling that way. I think The Fever is going to be one of those books that people are going to have strong feelings about.

I recommend The Fever because I think it’s a book that will get people talking if nothing else.

Thanks to Little, Brown and Company for the review copy via Netgalley.

14 comments:

  1. I totally agree that this is a book that will get people talking. I think a group willing to dig into some of the social commentary could overturn quite a bit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is a lot of fodder for conversation there, that's for sure.

      Delete
  2. I really liked this book. The ending worked for me but I can see where it would get people talking.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The actual cause of everything was a little anti-climactic for me but I preferred it to the direction I thought it had taken.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wasn't sure where it was going. There were so many possibilities. It was a little disappointed.

      Delete
  4. So far I'm loving this! I'll likely finish it tonight.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm intrigued by your description of it. I just might check it out.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love the premise of this book -- this kind of hysterical illness without explanation is fascinating to me -- but Megan Abbott is not a good author-fit for me. I read The End of Everything and Bury Me Deep and just have no inclination to read more of her work. :/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm on the fence about her. I bought Dare Me to see how I feel after 2 books.

      Delete
  7. This sounds so far up my street it's practically knocking on my front door. It actually reminds me a bit of the synopsis for Bloodstream by Tess Gerritsen, which is a super-interesting medical thriller I read last year; there's an outbreak of teen violence in a little lakeside town (again with the lake!) reminiscent of one that occurred fifty years ago, and these kids are literally turning murderous overnight. A doctor in town with a teenage son is trying to work out what's happening before her own kid maybe gets 'infected'. I love these fascinating epidemic-type stories, even if the endings have a tendency to sometimes sort of drift away quietly. *wanders off to add book to wishlist*

    ReplyDelete
  8. A) Great cover! B) Awesome premise! C) I think I've got to read this one.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting! Please leave a comment. I've disabled Anonymous comments since I've had a barrage of Anon spam lately. Sorry about that.
Also, if you leave a legit comment but it contains a spammy link, it will not be published.