Friday, April 15, 2011

Review: Deadly by Julie Chibbaro

Author: Julie Chibbaro
Pages: 304
Publisher: Anetheum Books for Young Readers Series or Standalone: Standalone
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reading Level: 13 years old+
Dominant Themes: Disease, Typhoid, Germs, Science


A 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.
Prudence has always been interested in medicine and science-- ever since her brother died. But she’s stuck in a girl’s preparatory school learning to be a prim and proper secretary. But then she gets the opportunity of a lifetime to work in the office of Health and Sanitation, and help track down diseases and stop them in their tracks.

The concept of the novel was original and intriguing, and actually made my skin crawl a little. Julie took a little piece of history and created a story from it, blending real life people with fictional ones of her own as well as tid-bits of science and medicine. I had never heard of the story of Typhoid Mary, but it seems like something awful to have lived through, especially for Mary herself. She was simply an Irish woman looking for an honest day’s work cooking for people, but little did she know that she was leaving a trail of disease and death wherever she went.

Adding to the scientific journey of uncovering the cause of Typhoid and how to stop it is a story of maturing and leaving childhood behind, as well as dealing with loss, and the wonders and sorrows of first (and unrequited) love. Prudence sees the world through much different eyes after her experience with the scientific community. She also embraces the fact that women cane be-- and are-- just as smart as men, and pursuing a career in medicine and science is a viable and completely attainable option for her.

The book is written in journals by Prudence, and the chapters aren’t too long, making this not only an entertaining read, but a relatively quick one as well. There are illustrations scattered throughout the book, supposedly drawn by --, detailing the new discoveries and interesting happenings of the day. I thought this added to the general ambiance of the novel, and made the overall reading experience much more entertaining.

The only issue I had was that I never felt any form of deep connection or understanding with any of the characters, even Prudence. Since it is told from the personal perspective of Prudence as she looks back on her day, we only get to see her point of view on certain people. I didn’t like or dislike any of the characters, I was just kind of apathetic.
Part historical fiction, part scientific mystery, Deadly is sure to be an engrossing and possibly eye opening novel. I recommend it for avid fans of historical fiction. I give this novel 3.5 stars out of 5.

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