Monday, May 16, 2011

Deadly by Julie Chibbaro

Genre: YA historical fiction
Pages: 304 (hardcover)
Published: February 2011 by Atheneum Books
Recommended for: MG and YA readers

A mysterious outbreak of typhoid fever is sweeping New York.
Could the city’s future rest with its most unlikely scientist?

 My Take:

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading Deadly.  The story is a fairly simple, straightforward one: Prudence is a student at a private school for girls in the late 1900s, a time when women were expected to grow up and become mothers or domestic workers, office typists at best.  But Prudence has an ideal scientific mind and an unrelenting curiosity: she dreams of forgoing the carefully charted-out life of women in her time and studying diseases like the one which killed her brother several years ago.  She manages to score a coveted and rare job as an assistant to the charismatic and hard-working Mr. Soper, Head of New York's Department of Health and Sanitation, after her new boss glimpses her potential as a scientist and decides to take a chance on Prudence despite her inexperience and gender.

The story is told through Prudence's brief journal entries, which are scribbled through with diagrams and notes about the case she and Mr. Soper must investigate for the Department: that of a series of deadly typhoid outbreaks among wealthy families in the city.  At first the incidents appear unrelated, with no hope of tracing the root of the terrible disease... until Prudence stumbles upon Mary Mallon, aka the infamous "Typhoid Mary".  Mary has been a cook in every one of the households where typhoid broke out, but she herself has never been sick a day in her life... is it possible that she could be a carrier for the disease without showing any visible signs of it?  The medical community of the time is skeptical to say the least, but Prudence and Mr. Soper are in agreement-- Mary Mallon must be contained to prevent the fever from spreading.  But Mary is far from cooperative-- she is a rebellious and somewhat wild woman who repeatedly resists capture, challenging their detective skills as well as their scientific ones.  Even as Prudence struggles to devote everything to the typhoid case, she find her heart torn by her growing attraction to Mr. Soper-- how can she be a scientist if her heart so easily rules over her mind?

Deadly will likely be enjoyed more by middle-grade and young adult readers, due to the very 'young' feel of Prudence's character and the writing.  This is a quick read which sometime manages to be educational as well as entertaining.  I learned a lot about disease and that time period in America, and thank my lucky stars I wasn't born in a time where society limits women as it did in Prudence's time.  The romance was hardly there, but the mystery was intriguing-- Mary Mallon was quite a fascinating character.  She was understandably dumbfounded by a bunch of scientists telling her she was spreading a disease she'd never suffered from in her life, and nobody can blame her for trying to resist the way she did.  The ending was meh-- thought it could have been much better.  The feel of the book overall reminded me of Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury (it's set in a similar time period with another mystery), but I liked Wrapped much better.

Cover: 4/5
Premise: 5/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3/5
Overall Rating: 3.5/5


Jenny said...

Ooooo this one sounds so interesting! I love learning fun new tidbits when I'm reading too, so all the information about the disease is a big draw for me with this one. Thanks for this review Kat, I hadn't heard much about this one before I visited today:)

Cait said...

Great review, the idea of it sounds interesting but i'm not sure it'd be something I personally would want to read.

Liz @ Cleverly Inked said...

I have seen this about but it just never pulled me in, I might have to give it a shot.

Melissa (i swim for oceans) said...

I don't really love characters that feel too young for me, but I love the time period and setting for this one. I might just have to try it! Great review :)

Alison said...

This sounds like a very interesting book. I know some people were disappointed by the MG feel to it. I think that as long as you expect it to be "young," it should be fine.

Kat said...

@Alison-- There definitely was a MG feel to it, but as a quick read this one was great. I don't think it will prove very memorable (for me), but recommend it anyway! :)

Bridleless said...

Hi Kat. Good Review. I love the cover of this book - one of those that would make me pick it up just because of cover. This reminds me of another book I've read - Blood Simple - have you read that? Also, done through journal entries, it's about a young girl who's father is a scientist and he has a mysterious ill patient and she begins to suspect something more than a mere blood disease is going on - Hint: Vampire book. I reccomend it. Your work on this blog is awesome, girl!

Kat said...

@Brideless-- Ooh, have not read Blood Simple, but it sounds right up my alley. I love new takes on vampires (you should read the Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, it's awesome!). *XO*

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