by Laurie Halse Anderson
“What did it feel like to die? Was it a peaceful sleep? Some thought it was full of either trumpet-blowing angels or angry devils. Perhaps I was already dead.”
Mattie is a 14 year old girl who helps her mother run a coffeehouse in 1793 Philadelphia, the then capital of the United States and a bustling metropolis. Mattie is your typical teenager, sleeping late, grumbling about chores, crushing on the painter's apprentice down the block. There is faint news of a minor fever causing a few deaths in the city, but no one is really worried. Suddenly, the death toll skyrockets and Mattie finds herself struggling alone in an almost deserted city filled with the sick, dying, and desperate. She must draw upon every ounce of strength she has to survive the terrible plague and save those she loves.
This is another book that went so fast I didn't take any notes. It has a slow start, but I feel all plague or apocalypse books do. You don't want to hear about going to the market, you want to get to the DEATH! And once you get there, the story really picks up. There is danger and despair and loads of horrifying situations, and Mattie must rise up out of her slumpy lazy teenagerness to do what needs to be done.
The grandfather is a refreshing and excellent character. He is bombastic and strong, friends with everyone, cheerful, silly and brave. While many of the other characters seemed like tropes, Captain William Farnsworth Cook was a delight!
I was happy that this book touched a little on every significant aspect of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793: everyone fleeing the town, people stopped from entering other towns, Bush Hill, the Free African Society, the food shortage, the looters, the debate between doctors, the newspapers, the lack of government. Mattie gets to experience all of those up close and personal.
Compared to other plague books, it is a bit mild, but it is the first juvenile fiction plague book I have read, so it is certainly a dark kids book! A nice, fast, apocolypsey read with more of a happy ending than most plague books get.
Books Like This
An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy
Company of Liars by Karen Maitland
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague By Geraldine Brooks
The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
I'm apparently a sucker for a good plague book.