Something odd is happening to the teenage girls in the town of Dryden. The town itself seems a bit other-worldly, its dead lake fenced off and bright with glowing algae; its weather shocking, hot-to-cold in the blink of an eye; its rain almost heavy and almost acidic, shredding raincoats to pieces.
The girls who attend the town’s high school begin dropping like flies. Literally dropping, their desks and chairs pitching to the side as they seize and jerk and ramble incoherently. Journalists arrive. The hospital overflows. An event, it seems, is occurring.
The Fever, Megan Abbott’s new novel, contains more than just the literal kind. There is also the frenzied burst from adolescent upwards into adulthood, making the book’s high school setting a veritable hothouse of blooming sexuality and judgement, all bright colored tights and testosterone, miniskirts and swoon. The agony and ecstasy of adolescence seems to be Abbott’s expertise, as her previous novel Dare Me focused on the heartless steeliness of the high school cheerleading squad, gone much too far.
As with any high school saga, The Fever‘s story wouldn’t be complete without nearly maniacal parents, losing their daughters to a mystery illness. Could it be the HPV vaccine, which the school recommended? Could it be that mysterious lake, fenced off and smelling odd, forbidden and beautiful? Could there be a haunting in Dryden, or perhaps something more sinister, but sadly, simply human?
High school seen through Abbott’s eyes isn’t a place you go and get educated, but a world unto itself. Anyone who was young once, who grew up awkward and gangly and full of hormones, knows this to be all too true. Abbot’s high school is a place where everything is known by everyone simultaneously, like magic. A place where there are multiple languages, spoken in glances and movements and jangly bracelets tousled on wrists. And a place where once things start going wrong, everyone is a suspect, and no one is safe.
*Due to the Hachette/Amazon feud, if you are interested in buying the actual book I suggest buying at Powell’s.com or your local bookseller–the hardcover is $26.00 (full cover price) on Amazon as I’m writing this, and will take 2-4 weeks to ship. Yikes! Don’t let this confuse you, as the book is out, and if you want it now you can have it now. Powell’s.com will ship it within 1-3 days, or at your local retailer you can just pluck the book right off the shelf.