I bought The Fever by Megan Abbott at Festival America in Paris back in 2016, right before I moved to Berlin. Now that I think about it, and considering where I bought it, I should have figured that I wouldn’t be able to relate, because I would end up finding it too American. But anyway. Maybe this also has to do with how my taste has evolved when it comes to reading.
If you liked this book, be prepared, I’m going to complain a lot, and criticize it. You don’t have to read. Now you have been warned!
Title: The Fever
Author: Megan Abbott
Genre: YA Mystery/Thriller
My rating: ⭐⭐
A small town turns to chaos as girls start having seizures at school, and people attempt to find out what caused the sickness. Throughout the book, we follow the points of view of Tom, a popular teacher at school, as well as his two teenagers Eli, who is a popular hockey player, and Deenie, whose friends have gotten mysteriously sick.
I don’t make a habit of talking too much about books I didn’t like. I’d rather talk about those I enjoyed, and share the love, rather than complain. But I’ll make an exception for today because I really have to get this off my chest, and it’s been a while since I was THIS ANNOYED with a book. To be perfectly honest, the only reason I didn’t give it only one star was because I didn’t have the heart to. And the writing was actually good, unlike the story.
The Fever is supposedly a mystery/thriller kind of book about “bad girls” but honestly, I didn’t see it. I know it has received a lot of praise, and the blurb on the back of the book made it seem really catchy, but it just didn’t work for me. The story WAS intriguing and I kept reading until the end (with diffuculty) because I really wanted to see the cause or the culprit or whatnot, but even that was underwhelming.
Off topic, but if you want to read a YA contemporary about “bad girls” instead, I can totally recommend See all the Stars by Kit Frick instead. The mystery aspect of it was more interesting, and the characters more complex! In my humble opinion at least. But back to business.
First of all, let me get this out of the way because it’s probably the thing that annoyed me the most: throughout a huge chunk of the book, we see people arguing that the mysterious seizures have been caused by a vaccine. The amount of antivax talk I had to go through with this book was INSANE and just made me want to throw the book across the room. This kind of thinking is HELLA TOXIC and if this is something that triggers you in any way, then please stay away from this book. I know it made me super uncomfortable.
On top of the insane antivaxxers that constantly pop up, there is also some mysterious talk about the lake of the town. Apparently the waters are weird, and it ended up not playing a part in the book, and I was confused.
Overall, there was a lot of talk about sex, and a lot of lying, and a lot of hiding the truth from people who were supposed to be your best friends. This book took the whole concept of it’s okay to mess up when you are in high school to a whole new level that I was absolutely not invested in. I guess this was my mistake. I was hoping I would find great family support and/or a sense of sorority among the group of girls. I don’t know, anything that would make me root for them. But it just didn’t happen. Instead, we got girls hating on each other, and trying to put each other down, and I ain’t got no time for this. We stan girls who support each other. The rest is a result of patriarchy and we have to break the cycle.
Another thing I heard this book compared to was the Salem Witch Trials, and considering people spend at least half of the book arguing that those seizures have been caused by a vaccine, yeah, you see where I’m going with this: there was no such thing as a witch trial. I was expecting people to be accused, girls trying to protect each other because they were innocent… I got none of this and once again, I was disappointed as well as thoroughly underwhelmed.
Finally (and once again, this is just personal) this book had a very strong “small American town” vibe that was utterly foreign to me. I remember noticing this in other YA book like This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp for example, and lots of other YA contemporaries that take place in small towns where everybody knows everybody. And usually I don’t really mind. I can’t relate, but I don’t mind. But in The Fever it just sounded too fake and unrealistic. All the school assemblies and whatnot. I don’t know, it just didn’t click right this time. But hey, I still managed to finish the book.
And now I’m going to donate it because I need more shelf space.
In conclusion, if you want to read a book with strong female characters going through some shit, read Wilder Girls by Rory Power instead. It also has a weird epidemy that appeared because of unknown reasons, but it’s more mysterious, and has an (almost) all girls cast as it’s set up in an all-girls school that is stuck in quarantine. It has girls standing up for each other, it was much more interesting, and I loved it. Also it’s super sapphic and that’s always a bonus ♥ Basically, they had some ground topics in common, and Wilder Girls handled it much better than The Fever. (Again, that’s only my personal opinion, but if you haven’t read Wilder Girls, I’d definitely recommend it!)
And that’s enough complaining for today! Thank you so much for reading this far, and I hope you have a wonderful day ♥