The Fever – by Megan Abbott
This story is almost a reworking of The Crucible, about the Salem witch trials, which were predicated upon female teenage hysteria.
Deenie Nash is a normal 16 year old girl with the sort of friends that are so typical during secondary (high school) education. Her older brother, Eli, is the kind who turns girl’s heads, yet he is modest and respectful. Her father, Tom, is a teacher at the same school that his children attend.
The trouble begins when Deenie’s best friend, or BFF, (I’m so fucking hip that I scare myself at times), Lise, suffers a seizure in class which ignites a spate of such incidents among the teenage girls there, and then moves beyond the school. Parents and students are in a panic as no one has answers to the cause, yet the questions grow in both urgency and severity. But all is not what it seems.
The Fever is not the greatest of novels. For me, this book struggled to hold my interest. The character representation was good enough, but the plot was weak. At times it seemed very repetitive and boring. Not a good sign. There was never enough excitement to generate much interest, but I’m a stubborn hoor and so forced myself to see it through to its bitter end.
The fever spreads like the ripples of Trump’s Twitteric (rhetoric via social media). Subplots – also ineffectual – abound. Teenage lives are explored. Adult lives are explored. But really, who cares? It was much too beige for my liking. The Fever would have made a good comedy. The story line was perfect for such an approach. I recommend Pandaemonium by Christopher Brookmyre for anyone curious by what I mean. It was laugh-out-loud-funny.
Megan Abbott is, apparently, an award-winning author with a movie adaptation of her novel Dare Me coming out soon. Perhaps The Fever was written during one of her bad spells. Perhaps she was distracted because her gerbil, named Henry, got stuck in the vacuum pipe and died creating an awful, hard-to-locate stink for a day or two. Perhaps her favourite pair of white knickers got dyed red because she put them in the wash with that bargain thong she purchased in the budget department store last Tuesday. Perhaps she sent a really filthy text to Simon only to discover that it went, instead, to the delightful but now confused Sister Mary Margaret. Or perhaps Megan Abbott simply has no excuses for the weaknesses in this book. Nor, then, does her editor.
If you want a good book about female teenage angst and the dangers of McCarthyism, with a demonstration of the repercussions when trouble arises, then read Arthur Millar’s The Crucible. Don’t read The Fever.
Sult scale rating: 4 out of 10. Disappointing, given the potential.