The Fever by Megan Abbott | Rating: ★★★★★
“I have another friend who gets what I’m really like, and I get her. She
scares me. Did you ever see yourself times ten in another person and
want to cover your eyes?”
I'm not going to even hesitate when I tell you this: Megan Abbott is one of my favourite writers. You know when you read a novel and it just hits you suddenly that hours have passed but you've been utterly consumed by a story? That was me with The Fever. Immediately, it hit me that the story was heavy in that special way that haunts you for hours after you've concluded your binge. I felt it in the previous novel of hers I had read--Dare Me.
That was different, though. This felt all new to me and it simultaneously intrigued and gutted me. All in one sitting I just kept thinking: "Holy shit. This book." The Fever kept my mind spinning and reeling and captivated in a way that comes with mysterious and thrillers. I had the same feeling during Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. It's like you've become so invested in the characters that you feel this lump forming in your throat as the story progresses. Ultimately, that's the most striking thing about Abbott's prose and stories; your mind doesn't remove itself from the pages. The Fever is not unlike a fever itself, heavy and intimidating. You feel yourself but not like yourself.
When I first read the description on the book I was wondering what I was getting into. I knew that the writing would be, for sure, compelling and thought provoking. That's Megan Abbott's signature. A tiny chill up your spine as you contemplate something. A shadow in the dark. The breaks in between lines; silence that tells you what is not said. The sweat that covers your forehead when you try and fit the pieces of a puzzle together before time is up.
My first thought was: what genre is this going to be? The summary so simple and mysterious, it could have gone any which way. I briefly considered that the mysterious illness would be something similar to the general mystery behind The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta. I knew instantly I wanted to find out what was happening in the story--why these teenage girls were suddenly ill. Everyone forms a theory based upon the backs of novels but nothing quite prepared me for the twist at the end, even if my senses were tingling over things that were said or hinted at.
Hidden beneath the mysterious health concerns in one community is a tale of coming of age and the complexities that come with a family who has been rocked by one thing or another. In this case, The Fever keeps its focus shifting from the inner workers of one family and the sudden illness that takes over. As a reader you suspect one thing while the characters wonder of other possibilities. It's easy to fall into the theories right besides characters and you can't help but wonder what really happened.
I do wish there had been more developments in the case of some characters and plotlines. There was a sense of intimacy in the narration (told in rotating points of view) that kept the ball rolling but it still felt like we didn't know everything. I wanted to know more about the girls who were ill, the way things unfolded, why certain characters seemed to be hanging by a thread and what possessed the big bad to do what they did.
Overall, I loved The Fever thoroughly and breezed through its chapters in just a few hours. It was an incredibly thought provoking look into family and the relationships of friends, all tied into mysteries. I loved the characters, the pace, the tone and everything in between. I only wish there was more to add to it because saying goodbye was rough--despite being satisfying all the same. Megan Abbott will keep you leaning forward, waiting for the world to shift just a bit as the truth settles in and the story wraps up.