The fictional novel Fever 1793 written by Laurie Halse Anderson is narrated through the protagonist, Matilda “Mattie” Cook.
Mattie is a fourteen year old, who lives with her mother and grandfather; as a family, they run a popular coffeehouse. A series of events happen, which forces her to grow up quickly and go through struggles to keep her family and her family’s business.Mattie works in a coffeehouse ran by her mother, grandfather, and their maid Eliza.
The Cook Coffeehouse outside Philadelphia becomes a haven for those fleeing from the fever sweeping across the city, also known as the yellow fever. The yellow fever took about 10% of its residents. The outbreak hit in August and didn’t lessen until November. When the fever initially strikes, some people leave the city, while others don’t believe it is anything more than a regular fever that tends to strike every fall. Mattie is just a normal teenager. As any other teenage girl, her body is changing, she can’t stand the sound of her mother’s voice, and she has a huge crush on a cute painter guy named Nathaniel Benson. The outbreak of yellow fever, though, creates an urgent situation in the city she calls home.
Once known for its brotherly love, Philadelphia is transformed into a nightmare of orphaned children, thieves, and mass unmarked graves. Over the course of the novel, Mattie experiences intense personal loss and comes face-to-face with death. She must also fight the tide of panic and fear raging in the city–and within herself.
To win the battle, Mattie has to gather every ounce of her courage, strength, and morality. A true test of who she is, the fever will become one of the defining moments of Mattie’s life. As the yellow fever epidemic continues to spread through her city, her mother becomes ill, Mattie and her grandfather attempt to flee the city. However, her grandfather becomes ill, and then Mattie herself. Once Mattie has recovered, they return to the city, however, it is completely abandoned, and their house has been robbed.
When they are attacked by robbers, Mattie’s grandfather passed away, and Mattie is left to her own devices. On her way to the market after burying her grandfather, she discovers a child, Nell, who’s mother has died of the fever, and Mattie takes her in. Mattie makes contact with Eliza, who is caring for her brother’s sons, and stays with her and Nell. Soon, Nell and the twin boys come down with the fever, and Mattie and Eliza have to stop helping others to care for them.
They move into the coffeehouse, and when all have recovered after the first frost, the city comes to life again. Mattie asks Eliza to be her partner in getting the coffeehouse started again. Soon, her mother arrives from staying with relatives. Mattie believed she may have been dead, but the family moves on after the tragedy of the fever fades away.