Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Done: "The Fever" by Megan Abbott

Done: The Fever by Megan Abbott, 2014, 9780316231053

The usual high quality work of Abbott, Jr. I was a year behind on reading this one.

Abbott moves even further away from straight crime and noir novels by focusing more on the psychological. Abbott uses teenage girls again, but this one spreads out compared to Dare Me. Abbott tells the tale by 1st personing three family members: Deenie is the teen protagonist. Eli her older teen brother. Tom her father and high school teacher. The crime at the center of the story is caused by a romantic jealousy driven frantic by teen drama and emotion. It's the crime's strange psychological byproduct that Abbott zeroes in on.

Deenie is a high school sophomore in Dryden. (New York state, maybe? Oh, it doesn't matter.) She is is part of a tight group of four girls and feels her best friend Gabby is slipping away from her. Gabbie is spending more time with Skye and Deenie has been hanging out with Lise. Things start out with teen worries and concerns. Worry over vaccination pain, love interests, reputation, status, family concerns, mysteries of why people behave badly.

Deenie is in class one morning when Lise has a "fit". A thrashing,shaking fit that throws her from her chair and onto the floor. He classmates are concerned enough to make sure they record everything on their cell phones. Deenie is freaked out and worried. Lise goes to the hospital, is released home, has another fit and whacks her head on a table, goes back in the hospital. Then another  girl has a fit. Then Gabbie has a fit. What is to blame? "I'll bet it's that vaccine. You're poisoning our children!!"

Meanwhile, Eli is a hockey playing fool. He spends as much time as possible on the ice and his good looks draw women like flies. Eli has been a slut the past year or two but is getting weary of the behavior. Tom is a careless father and a serial dater after his wife suddenly left after a surprise miscarriage that may have been part of her surprise affair with a married man.

Things start to happen as Abbott bounces us back forth among those three. Deenie is worried for her friends. Worried that she is to blame for the unknown disease. Worried that someone will find out about how she had sex for the first time.

Teen girls are acting weird and anxious. Teen girls are falling sick. Parents are getting paranoid and angry. Parents are blaming anyone they can. Public health starts asking questions. Police start asking questions and searching the school grounds.

Everything ties up nicely in the end with a reasonable and realistic solution, same as Dare Me. Deenie is too distracted by the mess around her to suspect what really happened/.

1. Abbott and Bill Crider are real good at setting things up so everything makes sense in the end.  
2. Abbott got interest in the breakout of "Teen Girl Sickness!" in Maine. Massachusetts? New Hampshire? One of those states anyway. Abbott writes us a close-in account but does not write from the perspective of someone who gets sick. Deenie's homelife is not perfect but she has the self-confidence and stability to not sicken herself from the commotion, worry and anxiety.
3. Yes, "personing" is a word. So is "screwyouitsmywordsothere".

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