Published in 2000, Fever 1793 is Laure Halse Anderson’s novel about an epidemic of yellow fever that struck the city of Philadelphia in 1793. The novel is a work of historical fiction: it features a blend of real events and historical figures with fictional characters (including Mattie and her family). Fever was Anderson's second young adult novel to be published, and it was her first young adult historical novel.
In 1993, Anderson was working as a journalist and lived not far from Philadelphia. She happened upon an article in a local paper describing a museum exhibit commemorating the 300th anniversary of the yellow fever outbreak. Anderson was surprised that she had never heard about this important event in American history, and she was struck by the idea that she could write a powerful story about these events. She began to do research, making use of sources and archival materials at The Historical Society of Philadelphia.
Anderson spent the next 4 years writing various drafts of the novel but was never satisfied with it, and she did not receive positive feedback from publishers. In about 1997-1998, Anderson set the manuscript aside and focused on writing Speak, a contemporary young adult novel describing the aftermath of a sexual assault. Speak was published in 1999 and received a lot of praise. After this first success, Anderson was ready to return to her manuscript for Fever. She made a number of significant changes, including cutting some of the early chapters and focusing on a first-person narrator, since she felt that the use of this technique explained part of why Speak had been so successful.
Fever 1793 was published in 2000 and was also widely praised. The novel received the American Library Association Best Book for Young Readers Award and the Teacher's Choice Award from the International Reading Association. Fever was also one of three novels (the other two being Speak and Catalyst) that led to Anderson receiving the ALA Margaret A. Edwards award in 2009. Information Anderson uncovered while researching Fever 1793 led to her eventually writing a trilogy of historical novels (the Seeds of America series) focusing on the experience of slavery in early America.