Compelling 1700s history with amazing parallels to the 21st Century


Matilda "Mattie" Cook (17) lives with her mother Lucille and her grandfather in the space above their family coffeehouse. Her father died two years ago after falling from a ladder. One day Matilda wakes up and realizes that Polly, their serving girl is late, and Lucille later learns that Polly died of a fever. A doctor in the coffeehouse mentions Yellow Fever, but no one was overly concerned because it has not been seen for decades.

As the death rate rises, families begin to leave the city for the country. Matilda’s mother comes down with the Fever and decides it is time for Matilda to leave, too. Accompanied by her grandfather, the two board a wagon with a couple out of town headed toward the country to stay with family friends. At a checkpoint, the officers decide Matilda’s grandfather is infected and the two are put off the wagon and told to walk back to the city. Matilda must look for food and water because her grandfather cannot go far. She collapses after a day only to wake days later in a hospital made to care for patients with Yellow Fever. Matilda recovers, and she and her grandfather are taken back to the city.

Everything has changed, businesses are boarded up and there are no people on the street. Food is scarce, men with wheelbarrows walk the streets to collect the dead, and mass burials happen daily. Matilda and her grandfather arrive home and the coffeehouse has been broken into, robbed, and vandalized. Her mother is also nowhere to be found. Will Matilda survive this epidemic?

BTSYA / Teen Reader (14):
There are a lot of things that I like about this book. Even though the story is fiction it is based on the real-life Yellow Fever outbreak of the late 1700s. It shows what people thought, how they made decisions, and what they did to try to cure the fever.

I definitely recommend this book to older readers. The book is very interesting but can be a bit confusing for kids around 10 years old.

BTSYA / Adult Volunteer Reader (42):
Fever 1793 is a historical fiction novel based on real events. Laurie Halse Anderson does a wonderful job creating the atmosphere during this time, with vivid, detailed descriptions. The beginning of each chapter features a small excerpt written by people who lived through the Yellow Fever pandemic. Her fictional characters are believable, and incorporating actual people is a nice touch.I enjoyed following Matilda's journey through this tough period. She began as a teen who did not care much for work but matured into a young lady who was brave, cared for others, and appreciated challenging work. Although the story is incredibly sad, there are moments of good times and humor. It was interesting learning what medical care was like then (bleeding a patient was commonplace in the 1700s). There is an appendix included at the end of the story that provides educational information about the epidemic, doctors, burial sites, Free African Society, political figures, and several other things referenced throughout the story.

This book would make a great gift for anyone who enjoys American history. It is informative and entertaining. Be aware that there is sickness and death throughout the story. Recommended to ages 12 and Up.

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Even readers who aren't historical fiction fans will find this a compelling, suspenseful page-turner. 

Content Awareness Factors:

The story describes symptoms and effects of Yellow Fever, as well as death and 1700-era medical practices. Some may find this difficult or sad.

Type of Book:
This is a historical fiction novel about a young girl who is dealing with a deadly disease outbreak in Pennsylvania in the late 1700s.
Educational Themes:

Read this story and then compare/contrast it with the lives we are living going through the Covid-19 pandemic. Readers may be skeptical of the medical choices, but this is an opportunity to learn more about how people treated disease in the 1700s and 1800s.

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
12 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
11 and Up
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer's Age: 14, 42
Purchase Recommendation:

Title Fever 1793
Publisher Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Imprint Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing © 2002 (Reprint Edition)
ISBN 9780689848919
Material Paperback
Cost $8.99
Genres Adventure, Historical Fiction, History, Health & Wellness, War
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