Sunday, April 24, 2011

Deadly - Julie Chibbaro

Title: Deadly
Author: Julie Chibbaro
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011 (Hardcover)
Length: 293 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Historical Fiction
Started: April 23, 2011
Finished: April 23, 2011

mysterious outbreak of typhoid fever is sweeping New York.

Could the city’s future rest with its most unlikely scientist?

If Prudence Galewski is ever going to get out of Mrs. Browning’s esteemed School for Girls, she must demonstrate her refinement and charm by securing a job appropriate for a young lady. But Prudence isn’t like the other girls. She is fascinated by how the human body works and why it fails.

With a stroke of luck, she lands a position in a laboratory, where she is swept into an investigation of the fever bound to change medical history. Prudence quickly learns that an inquiry of this proportion is not confined to the lab. From ritzy mansions to shady bars and rundown tenements, she explores every potential cause of the disease. But there’s no answer in sight—until the volatile Mary Mallon emerges. Dubbed “Typhoid Mary” by the press, Mary is an Irish immigrant who has worked as a cook in every home the fever has ravaged. Strangely, though, she hasn’t been sick a day in her life. Is the accusation against her an act of discrimination? Or is she the first clue in a new scientific discovery?

Prudence is determined to find out. In a time when science is for men, she’ll have to prove to the city, and to herself, that she can help solve one of the greatest medical mysteries of the twentieth century.

I love learning about plague, disease etc., call it a morbid fascination of mine. Deadly is historical fiction based on the figure of 'Typhoid Mary' in the early 1900s in New York City.

Prudence Galewski is 16 in 1906 and manages to find a job working for epidemiologist Mr. Soper, who is investigating a recent outbreak of typhoid fever. When they finally pin down what they believe is the source of the outbreak, they are faced with a moral dilemma: do they quarantine Mary Mallon, an otherwise healthy person who doesn't even realize she's a carrier of the disease, or do they respect her liberty and allow her to remain free and continue to infect everyone she cooks for?

I really liked how Prudence was very different from most girls of that time period. Her parents encouraged her to learn and think for herself, and specifically to learn about science. Ever since her older brother Benny died of infected wounds, she has had an obsession with figuring out how people get sick and how that spreads. The writing is excellent, written in the form of Prudence's diary entries, so the vocabulary reflects the language of the time period quite well. I also liked the sub plots of Prudence's little crush on Mr. Soper and finally grieving for her father, those two actually tie in together in the end and it makes sense why the author included them. The moral dilemma is really well expressed through Prudence, who assumes that if she can't make a decision for the good of society, then she doesn't have the constitution necessary to become a doctor like she wants to be.

Excellent historical fiction, especially if the subject matter interests you.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the little germ images in the woman's silhouette, but the yellow and black colouring is kinda bleh.

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