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Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson: Book Review

Updated on December 23, 2010

Fever 1793 Book Review

In the summer of 1793, Philadelphia stood as the nation’s capitol. The same summer an infestation of Yellow Fever killed thousands of Philadelphia residents and nearly decimated the city. Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel Fever 1793, tells the story of that fateful summer through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Mattie Cook.

Mattie had led a fairly comfortable life as the daughter of coffee house owners. She dreamed of the day when she could take over her parents’ business and turn it into one of the best in the city. When her mother fell ill with Yellow Fever, everything about Mattie’s easy life changed. Mattie was forced to leave the city with her grandfather, only to watch him die from the fever a short time later. Completely alone, Mattie returned to Philadelphia. It was then that she realized the extent of the illness and its impact on the city she loved.

In this novel, Laurie Halse Anderson includes references to the politicians of the time, the African Free Society, and a thorough account of the affect the disease on the city. The historical research behind the novel is exceptional. As with Anderson’s other historical novels, Chains and Forge, her attention to detail results in a vibrant setting. When her talents for descriptive setting are combined with charismatic, intelligent characters, her historical novels are a pleasure to read.   

Young adults are able to identify with Mattie’s forced coming of age. Despite the historical setting, Mattie’s teen voice is one that carries through the ages. Those young people who enjoy historical fiction will appreciate the teenage perspective as well as the use of detail that bring the events of 1793 to life.


Fever 1793: Book Talk

Everyone around her is dying. Mattie is alone and struggling to survive. The plague, called Yellow Fever, has already killed her grandfather and may have killed her mother.

Only a few months before, sixteen year old Mattie was living a comfortable life working in her parents coffeehouse and making big plans for the future.

But life in Philadelphia in 1793 can be hard. And when Yellow Fever is killing nearly everyone she knows, Mattie must rely on near strangers and her own wit to survive the long, sweltering summer.

Books by Laurie Halse Anderson


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    • KateMcGregor profile image

      KateMcGregor 7 years ago from Cheyenne, Wyoming

      They did exist and they were actually popular meeting spots for politicians, something that Anderson alludes to in the novel. An interesting tidbit of United States history...

    • kookoo88 profile image

      kookoo88 7 years ago from Cripple Creek

      It sounds really interesting. Did they actually have coffee houses back then?