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Fever 1793 Paperback – March 1, 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 851 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

On the heels of her acclaimed contemporary teen novel Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson surprises her fans with a riveting and well-researched historical fiction. Fever 1793 is based on an actual epidemic of yellow fever in Philadelphia that wiped out 5,000 people--or 10 percent of the city's population--in three months. At the close of the 18th century, Philadelphia was the bustling capital of the United States, with Washington and Jefferson in residence. During the hot mosquito-infested summer of 1793, the dreaded yellow fever spread like wildfire, killing people overnight. Like specters from the Middle Ages, gravediggers drew carts through the streets crying "Bring out your dead!" The rich fled to the country, abandoning the city to looters, forsaken corpses, and frightened survivors.

In the foreground of this story is 16-year-old Mattie Cook, whose mother and grandfather own a popular coffee house on High Street. Mattie's comfortable and interesting life is shattered by the epidemic, as her mother is felled and the girl and her grandfather must flee for their lives. Later, after much hardship and terror, they return to the deserted town to find their former cook, a freed slave, working with the African Free Society, an actual group who undertook to visit and assist the sick and saved many lives. As first frost arrives and the epidemic ends, Mattie's sufferings have changed her from a willful child to a strong, capable young woman able to manage her family's business on her own. (Ages 12 and older) --Patty Campbell --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The opening scene of Anderson's ambitious novel about the yellow fever epidemic that ravaged Philadelphia in the late 18th century shows a hint of the gallows humor and insight of her previous novel, Speak. Sixteen-year-old Matilda "Mattie" Cook awakens in the sweltering summer heat on August 16th, 1793, to her mother's command to rouse and with a mosquito buzzing in her ear. She shoos her cat from her mother's favorite quilt and thinks to herself, "I had just saved her precious quilt from disaster, but would she appreciate it? Of course not." Mattie's wit again shines through several chapters later during a visit to her wealthy neighbors' house, the Ogilvies. Having refused to let their serving girl, Eliza, coif her for the occasion, Mattie regrets it as soon as she lays eyes on the Ogilvie sisters, who wear matching bombazine gowns, curly hair piled high on their heads ("I should have let Eliza curl my hair. Dash it all"). But thereafter, Mattie's character development, as well as those of her grandfather and widowed mother, takes a back seat to the historical details of Philadelphia and environs. Extremely well researched, Anderson's novel paints a vivid picture of the seedy waterfront, the devastation the disease wreaks on a once thriving city, and the bitterness of neighbor toward neighbor as those suspected of infection are physically cast aside. However, these larger scale views take precedence over the kind of intimate scenes that Anderson crafted so masterfully in Speak. Scenes of historical significance, such as George Washington returning to Philadelphia, then the nation's capital, to signify the end of the epidemic are delivered with more impact than scenes of great personal significance to Mattie. Ages 10-14. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (March 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689848919
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689848919
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (851 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rebecca Herman HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It's the late summer of 1793 in Philadelphia, and fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook helps her widowed mother and her grandfather run a coffehouse. Mattie resents her strict mother and dreams of expanding the coffeehouse and becoming wealthy. But her mother seems determined to find a wealthy young man to marry Mattie off to. But all of Mattie's concerns soon seem petty when an epidemic of yellow fever begins to spread throughout the city. Mattie's own mother falls ill and sends Mattie and her grandfather to stay on a farm in the countryside, where she hopes they will be safe. But they are turned away and forced to return to Philadelphia when a doctor mistakes her grandfather's cough for yellow fever. Mattie comes down with the fever and nearly dies, but is nursed back to health in a temporary hospital. But she and her grandfather return to the coffeehouse to find that Mattie's mother has vanished. They try to settle back into a normal routine, but a sudden tragedy soon leaves Mattie on her own. Now, in a world turned upside down, in a ghost city a shadow of its former self, Mattie must keep herself alive and care for a little girl orphaned by the epidemic. This was an excellant historical novel that brought to life the epidemic. Through Mattie's first-person narration, I became immersed in the daily events of her life and her fight for survival. Highly reccomended.
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Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating account of a devastating fever epidemic in Philadelphia, then the capital of the United States, in 1793. Nearly overnight-- people contract the disease and die within the hour-- Mattie's life goes from being a slightly overworked teenage daughter of a proprietor of a successful coffee house, to a young woman struggling to survive in a city that's taken on the bleakness of a Mad Max film.
Yet somehow we never come as close to Mattie as we might, or as we do with the main character in Anderson's SPEAK. Mattie's thoughts are so much on survival and on food that at times the book feels a bit like a travelogue of a disaster. Salvation, when it comes, also seems abrupt. In the end, this is a quick way to get an immediate feel for a terrible time in history, but although we are told a lot about Mattie, her family, her hopes and dreams, somehow she stays elusive. Emotionally, the book is a little disappointing, but it's still well worth a read.
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Format: Paperback
in a sentence or two: it's 1793 in Philadelphia, and a mysterious fever is said to be killing people without mercy. the murmurings of yellow fever come to fruition when 15 year old Mattie's mom is struck ill with a fever that drives her crazy and gives her eyes a horrid yellow tinge.

Mattie, her mom, their cook Eliza and Mattie's grandpa run a coffeehouse in Philadelphia. grandpa served under the great General Washington and likes to fill her days sharing stories, sneaking her candy, and being overall supportive and encouraging. her dad died from a fall off a ladder which left her mom understandably saddened and bitter, very much unlike the soft and comforting woman she used to be. their life at the coffeehouse provides a good deal of gossip off the street about the fever, however, their first awareness is when their beloved scullery maid and friend of Mattie dies suddenly in her home.

the book is the journey of Mattie and her family in their attempts to avoid the yellow fever. the fear that people felt from not knowing how to prevent the spreading of the disease or what to do when it struck is strongly delivered by Anderson. the differing opinions of doctors, the despair, and the struggle to keep going when everything seems hopeless flood this book with rich emotions.

i was impressed with Mattie's voice as the narrator. as a 15 year old, she's in that awkward phase somewhere between being a girl to being a woman, which adds a blend of insecurity and determination that fits perfectly with the surrounding circumstances of the rest of the story. i didn't think i was getting too sucked in to the emotions until i was bawling in the middle when someone died...then i realized how captivating this book was.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Fever 1793" is about a fourteen-year-old girl named Mattie who lives in Philadelphia in, you guessed it, 1793. She and her mom and grandfather run a coffeehouse. Mattie starts out as a pretty ordinary girl, but then the yellow fever epidemic strikes and thousands become ill. Mattie gets sick, but survives. Her mother disappears. In running the coffeehouse by herself, and tending to the sick and dying, Mattie grows up in just a few months to become a right proper responsible young woman. I actually liked the beginning best. Mattie's voice was quite sardonic. "By the time they had me tightened, pinned, and locked into my clothes, I could feel my stomach rubbing against my backbone." The book was funny and sad at the same time. I hope Ms. Anderson continues to write novels as good as this!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I originally wanted to read this with my students, and it was recommended to me by a colleauge. However, I found it very dry and a dragged out story. I think it would bore my students, even with the interesting background of the Yellow Fever in Pennsylvania.
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