When yellow fever devastates Philadelphia in 1793, the Cook family and many others succumb to the terrible disease. As Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel Fever 1793 opens, sixteen-year-old Mattie Cook has just lost a close friend to the epidemic. Mother wants Mattie to flee the fever’s progression, but Mattie instead attempts to keep the family’s coffeehouse running with the help of Eliza, a free African American woman. Mother falls ill, and in an effort to protect her family, sends both Mattie and her grandfather away from the city. Mattie too becomes ill but recovers, returning home only to find out that thieves have looted the coffeehouse. She is heartbroken when Grandfather later dies following a brutal attack, but finds another person to worry about when she encounters a child named Nell, orphaned due to the fever’s death toll. When Nell, and Eliza’s nephews, fall ill, the young girl and her older friend doggedly nurse them back to health. Mother survives, though now a semi-invalid, and Mattie decides, against societal dictations, to run the coffeehouse with Eliza as her partner. Though burdened with painful memories, Mattie ends the novel believing that better days are ahead. The fortitude and determination of Anderson’s heroine centers this gripping novel, and the historical context gives the story an authentic edge, making it suitable for middle school readers.