Title: Deadly
Author: Julie Chibbaro
Bound Galley ISBN: 9781442414877
Pages: 295 pages
Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, c2011.
Reviewed from ARC furnished by Traveling ARC Tours
Release Date: Feb. 22, 2011

Since I realize ARCs (Advanced Reader Copy) are not the finalized book and can go through the editing process still, I figured I’d quote from GoodReads.com rather than the ARC itself. The cover image was also taken from GoodReads.com.

A mysterious outbreak of typhoid fever is sweeping turn-of-the-century New York. Every week more people fall ill, and despite thorough investigation, there’s no cause in sight. It’s not until the city’s most unlikely scientist — sixteen-year-old Prudence Galewski — takes a job as an assistant in a laboratory that the evidence begins to fall into place. It seems one person has worked in every home the fever has ravaged: Mary Mallon, an Irish immigrant dubbed “Typhoid Mary” by the press. Includes a historical note by the author.

I’m not sure how accurate this description is of the book, because first off a dozen isolated and infected houses does not — in my opinion — equal an outbreak sweeping the city. Secondly, the evidence would have eventually fallen into place with or without Prudence’s assistance. In any case I thought that for a book that covered an investigation of a medical disease, author Julie Chibbaro did a reasonable job in maintaining suspense and intrigue for audience’s attention spans. Her author’s note in the back explains that she moved up the timeline in order to better convey the entire investigation, and that many of the characters were actual people whose names and actions she took from accounts of the outbreak. In that aspect I can appreciate her striving for accuracy.

I can also appreciate the portrayal of the attitudes of that time period, varying from the prejudice against the “dirty Irish” to the suspicion of how a healthy person could unintentionally infect others. The author really delved into how sceptical people might be to believe in things that have recently come to light in the community. We learn about cells in schools, but we don’t think like Prudence does about just how things are held together and we don’t just “float away” if we’re made of these microscopic loose entities.

Prudence’s relationships with her supervisor Mr. Soper and a scientist named Jonathan had me slightly confused, and never really felt fully developed. Her feelings and her actions never mesh, leaving readers questioning whether she really does have this romantic fascination with him. Maybe that was the author’s intention, but I felt like something was missing. However, I did appreciate that, since her close friend has moved away and was growing distant, she had someone to turn to in the form of the female doctor, who served as inspiration for Prudence to further her own education and scientific inquiry.

Overall, an interesting presentation of “Typhoid Mary” that really lends readers to sympathize with Molly, who never really asked for this notoriety and attention to begin with. Readers are encouraged to think through the department’s actions, and draw their own conclusions of what could have and what should have been done.

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