[This review is angry - it's not meant to insult anybody who enjoyed this book. I NEVER write reviews before I'm done usually, even if I have to skim...more[This review is angry - it's not meant to insult anybody who enjoyed this book. I NEVER write reviews before I'm done usually, even if I have to skim to get there, but I can't hold myself back.]
The ickiness didn't bother me. The sex didn't bother me. The book bothered me.
I'm not going to rate this (yet) because I haven't finished it (yet). I am, according to my Kindle, at 57%, which is hilarious given that the book is only 330 pages. It has taken me about three months to get this far. This has to be one of the slowest books I've ever read. I'm amazed by the number of incredibly positive reviews among my Goodreads friends, reviewers I really trust, because, frankly, I am BORED RIGID.
I had such high hopes. I loved the premise and I needed it right now, even though I was warned that it was slow, poetic and character-driven rather than horror-ish and intense as it sounds. Except that I think those three things might be synonyms for a book that seems to resent any attempt at plot, dragging along at the pace of mud in November, and characters who are not so much unlikeable as NOT EVEN THERE. Abbott's style is very "literary" (which of course has everybody squealing because it's a potboiler plot married to literary writing and therefore immune to criticism), but it's also frustratingly elliptical and samey. Everybody in Abbott's world a naval-gazer, who cannot so much as pick up their phones without speculating on the cultural implications, even the sex-crazed teenage boy, his sex-crazed sister and their sex-avoiding Biology teacher father.
The wrtiing is good, don't get me wrong, but the plot is what really kills The Fever. It's sort of a mystery, I guessssss, in the loosest sense of the world, in that Deenie's (sex-crazed sister) totally nondescript friends, who have back stories instead of personalities, are stricken by a mysterious illness. What caused it? Is it the lake in which they all swam, the HVP vaccine, sex (which, by the way, is something of a 'theme' in the novel - edgy!), puberty, schizophrenia?
Except, apparently because this is literary instead of a lesser genre like science fiction, horror or mystery, Abbott doesn't have to make any of this believable in any way, even in the loosest sense of the world. I mean, I don't work for a hospital, or the Centre for Disease Control, or whatever. I'm not trying to criticize any of this from a learned standpoint as I just don't know - but, let me tell you, none of it felt REMOTELY plausible to me in the context of a novel. It's full of PEOPLE WHINING, or introspectively speculating on Sex As A Disease, Teenage Girls As Ambiguous and Unknowable Creatures, and the HPV vaccine as a concept and, honestly, Abbott, I like your pretty writing but would it kill you to include even a modicum of plot or character development? Deenie is constantly shafted by her sick friend Gaby, who won't talk to her properly,and Lise is out of commission for like 60% of the part of the novel I read. I don't know these people. I don't care.
I love a good town-hysteria novel but this seemed to come from nowhere. We're not told WHY people think the HVP vaccine could be a cause. We're not told WHY (really) everybody blames the lake, since everybody denies they've ever been there (pull the other one, fools). Outside of some airy-fairy recollections from Tom and Deenie of the glowing of the lake, that's it, we don't hear anything else. It's one thing to have red herrings but, please, they must be remotely logical and operational within the bounds of possibility. Please.
We're supposed to believe that everybody does because Abbott says so. None of it is remotely built up. We're supposed to be invested in the girls' illness because Deenie tells us that they were friends. Similarly, we're supposed to be interested in Deenie, Tom and Eli because they're the main characters.
So, in short, RIGHT NOW, the plot is nothing but air. The characters are doing nothing but whining, moaning and boring the hell out of me. The relationships are non-existent. The Emperor's New Clothes.(less)