Book Review – The Fever by Megan Abbott (Vector Tour Stop #4)

Title: The FeverBook Review Image
Author: Megan Abbott
ISBN: 9780316231053
No. of Pages: 320
Genre: Thriller
Origins: Little, Brown, and Company
Release Date: 17 June 2014
Bottom Line: Fascinating look into the mob mentality

The Fever by Megan AbbottSynopsis:

“The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hocky star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie’s best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town’s fragile idea of security.”

Thoughts:     The Fever explores the phenomenon of mass hysteria and the mob mentality, for that is exactly what is occurring throughout the novel. Rumors fly, townspeople make assumptions based on those rumors, and panic exponentially builds as more girls fall prey to the contagion. Thanks to the constant connection associated with smartphones and the Internet, the speed at which the rumors evolve into “the truth” is frightening. For that reason, the story is also a telling commentary on the changing dynamics of social interaction. Gone are the days when word of mouth meant just that, and one quick tap of a key is enough to change a person’s life forever.

The Fever is a fast-paced and chilling book. While it is a character-driven story, over time the characters lose importance compared with the town’s reaction in general. Deenie is a forgettable character, as she too easily blends into the background of the ensuing chaos, while her friends are nothing more than a cross between Mean Girls and The Crucible teens, neither comparison a flattering one. The subplot surrounding Eli is a simple distraction. The same can be said about Tom’s story, although his version does have the added benefit of providing insight into the adult reactions. However, it is the panic and disorder throughout the town that hits its target with readers. What the contagion is as well as its origins are minor compared to the mass pandemonium that happens when the girls start getting sick. For a fascinating and terrifying modern-day study of mass hysteria and the mob mentality in the Internet era, one need look no further than Megan Abbott’s latest.

Special Treat: One of the more interesting aspects of the story I found was the girls and their rapid descent into hysteria. As part of the Vector Tour, I was privileged enough to be able to ask Ms. Abbott about just that and her inspiration for such a chillingly realistic portrayal of such panic. Here is my question and her response.

Q: The Fever is a story of small town hysteria—a classically American story, in many ways! Were you inspired by real-life events?

Yes—very loosely. In 2012, there was this case in upstate New York of these high school girls all experiencing these baffling tics and twitches. It eventually affected eighteen young women, and caused an understandable panic in the school and community but it also became a much larger news story, attracting the Today Show, CNN, Fox News. But I love what you say about a “classically American story.” That’s how I thought about it—going all the way back to Nathaniel Hawthorne, and I think that’s what so fascinated me about it. Once I started writing, it veered very far from the real-life case, but the fear and confusion in those girls’ faces really lingered with me.

I remember that story from 2012 and am impressed that she was able to draw inspiration from it! I’m also curious if anyone has personal experience with hysteria of this type. Just how common is it?

Another Special Treat: As part of the Vector Tour, I am able to offer a reader (US or Canada only) one copy of Megan Abbott’s fantastic new novel. Please leave a comment with your email address and please let me know if you have ever witnessed such hysteria in the flesh or been party to it yourself. Inquiring minds want to know!  This giveaway will be open until Thursday, July 29th at 7 AM CDT.  Good luck!

Please feel free to check out the rest of the tour and see what other goodies Ms. Abbott has for fans!

24 Responses to Book Review – The Fever by Megan Abbott (Vector Tour Stop #4)
  1. Brandie
    June 19, 2014 | 8:15 AM

    I can’t say I’ve ever witnessed anything like this – but this book sounds really good and intriguing! I love your take on it – thanks for posting! I’m going to have to check this one out.

    • Michelle
      June 19, 2014 | 8:22 AM

      Thanks, Brandie! While we all fundamentally know that the mob mentality does exist, I think Megan did a fantastic job showing how it starts and its consequences. In that vein, I think it is a truly fascinating book.

  2. Ti
    June 19, 2014 | 11:21 AM

    No need to enter me as I reviewed the book last week. I liked the parental viewpoints in this one. They weren’t just a piece of the backdrop. I liked that.

    I did witness a little bit of hysteria like this when our elementary school, junior high and high school had reported numerous cases of H1N1 and the vaccine was not in stock for any of our kids to get. I had a friend from high school who became a doctor and on FB he told me that he had a stash of the vaccine and could arrange for my children to get the vaccine but that in his professional opinion, it was too late for it to do any good. How freaky is that!!! He was in another state so I am not sure how he would have made such arrangements but we ended up not getting it and my kids got sick, which sent me into a panic but it was not that strain.

    • Michelle
      June 19, 2014 | 8:28 PM

      I did like that the parents were a vital part of the hysteria. Of course, I appreciate any novel in which the parents are active characters in a teen’s life and not just a mention.

      Oh, I can see H1N1 being a huge potential hysteria point. I’m trying to think of any incidents around us, but I think we were spared. West Nile Virus is always a big one this time of year. Gotta love mosquitos!

  3. Karrie
    June 19, 2014 | 11:38 AM

    Fortunately, I’ve never encountered mass hysteria and I don’t know how I would react if I did. I’d like to think that I wouldn’t be a sheep and follow the crowd, but who knows under the circumstances!

    This sounds like a really interesting book and I would love to read it =)

    • Michelle
      June 19, 2014 | 8:23 PM

      I agree with you. I haven’t witnessed it. I have no idea if I would be strong enough to buck the current, but there is something to be said about the mob mentality.

      Good luck!

  4. Denise B
    June 19, 2014 | 11:53 AM

    This really sounds facinating, I have never seen, been involved in anything like this, didn’t even know they could actually exist. Interesting about the upstate New York event, this is the stuff good books are made of!

    • Michelle
      June 19, 2014 | 8:22 PM

      This is absolutely the stuff from which great books originate. It is also very reminiscent of The Crucible and the Salem witch trials, something to which I immediately refer whenever I think of mass hysteria.

      Good luck!

  5. Books Metro
    June 19, 2014 | 2:07 PM

    Thankfully I have not witnessed anything like that. I’ve had my eye on this book for a while and would love to win a copy!

    • Michelle
      June 19, 2014 | 8:21 PM

      I haven’t witnessed anything like this either, and I have no idea how I would react if I did.

      Good luck!

  6. Melanie
    June 19, 2014 | 9:35 PM

    Okay, I admit, I just googled the story of the NY girls. I’d never heard of it. The way the state of the mind can affect the body is fascinating and unsettling.

    • Michelle
      June 21, 2014 | 7:43 PM

      Isn’t it? The mind is so much more powerful than we credit it.

  7. Elizabeth Bevins
    June 20, 2014 | 8:06 AM

    No I have not experienced anything like that. It would be pretty uncomfortable! I can’t wait to read this book!!

    bevins.elizabeth (at) gmail.com

    • Michelle
      June 21, 2014 | 7:47 PM

      I can’t experiencing that. Can you?

      Good luck!

  8. Jackie Marzelli
    June 20, 2014 | 11:09 AM

    During college in Nov 1965, the great Northeast blackout. Rumors of a Russian attack started but did not continue on into hysteria.

    • Michelle
      June 21, 2014 | 7:49 PM

      I can imagine the Cold War saw lots of mass hysteria like that. Insanity.

      Good luck!

  9. Jenni
    June 24, 2014 | 8:25 AM

    I have not witnessed anything like this, nor have I read much that addresses the topic…but I am eager to read this!

    • Michelle
      June 24, 2014 | 9:41 PM

      I did find the book reminiscent of The Crucible. Have you read that? It’s a fascinating phenomenon.

      Good luck!

      • Jenni
        June 25, 2014 | 7:32 AM

        Thanks! Have not read it but will be putting it on my TBR list as your recommendations always good 🙂

        • Michelle
          June 25, 2014 | 7:56 AM

          Thanks, Jenni!

          Good luck!

  10. Suzy
    June 25, 2014 | 12:55 PM

    I’ve never witnessed or experienced such hysteria. It seems surreal. I just got Megan’s Dare Me and have been really wanting to get Fever, too.

  11. Benni
    June 27, 2014 | 11:25 AM

    Already got the book from the library, so no need to enter me. But thanks for the great review and interview–really look forward to reading this one now. (And thankfully, I have never witnessed such hysteria.)

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