Published in 2000, Fever 1793 is Laure Halse Anderson’s novel about the devastating epidemic of Yellow Fever that ravaged through Philadelphia during the summer of 1793. While the story is told through the fictional eyes of Matilda “Mattie” Cook, a teenage girl who must mature almost overnight, this example of historical fictional also incorporates some of the most famous names in early American history into its story of courage, determination and survival.
A certain General named Washington makes an appearance in the narrative and signer of the Declaration of Independence, Dr. Benjamin Rush, is an essential character. In addition to Mattie and several historical characters, Fever 1783 also covers themes related to African-American history as several of its primary characters are black. What separates this novel from many other of the period is that it offers a glimpse into the particular African-American experience of freed blacks living in the North even as slavery burned a brand of contempt into the American experience to the South.
Mattie’s story of dealing with the Yellow Fever is also one of rebellion against parental authority, thus making Fever 1793 much more than just a historical novel that addresses one of the lesser-known events in American history. The background of revolution plays out on a national level as well as a personal level.
Fever 1793 brought Anderson the American Library Association Best Book for Young Readers award and the Teacher's Choice award from the International Reading Association.