Laurie Halse Anderson
This book gives you a glimpse into the life of Mattie Cook living in post-Revolutionary Philadelphia. Much like teenagers these days she spends her days avoiding chores and daydreaming about running her family’s business. A balmy and extended summer season brings unprecedented misfortune to the city of Philadelphia in the form of a yellow fever epidemic. No one escapes unaffected and Mattie is no exception. When her mother falls ill with the dreaded malady, she is forced to flee the city with her grandfather where the pair is beset with misfortune. Mattie is forced to pit her wits and courage against unspeakable odds to protect herself, her family, her city, and their future from destruction. Mattie eventually returns to the city and joins forces with a freed slave and the African Free Society as they work to visit and assist the sick and save lives.
This is a wonderfully researched and executed historical fiction for teen readers. The yellow fever epidemic was a fascinating and often glossed-over subject in American history, merely warranting a footnote in most textbooks. This book brings to life the horror, desperation, and heroism felt by inhabitants of the nation’s capital. Ten percent of the city’s population was killed as a result of this disease, bringing to mind the Black Death that ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages. This isn’t a book for the faint of heart. Though not gory, this book looks unflinchingly at the realities of the disease and the callousness that unaffected treated those who were infected. Readers get an opportunity to see the growth and maturity gained by Mattie as well as the city of Philadelphia.
Submitted by Mollie Harrison
Springville Road Library
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