Mattie is just another citizen of Philadelphia, feeling like she has too many chores and a mother who doesn't appreciate her when a yellow fever epidemic strikes the city and Mattie becomes separated from her mother. Forced to grow up quickly, Mattie starts having to make decisions while the fever continues to rage through the city and people turn on each other as death stalks the summer.
Note: #2 for the YA Historical Fiction Challenge
Considering Anderson is a fairly well respected YA author, it was no surprise that this was an excellent historical fiction. Forced with some very adult choices, Mattie is a believable heroine as she tries to survive in a time when there was literally no understanding about what caused yellow fever. This was a disease that not only killed people, but to those at the time it seemed to have no logical pattern since it wasn't understood that it was mosquito transmitted. The inhuman things people do to each other in the face of panic is shown in the novel. Clearly this isn't an issue that has happened very recently in America, but there is always the possibility of epidemics anywhere in the world and the fear shown during this one is understandable.
Sometimes the events in the novel lead you to realize that Mattie was very lucky, but it doesn't take away from the impact of the novel. Her mother is portrayed a bit harshly at the beginning and sometimes things seem to work out just a bit too nicely, but the historical aspect of the story is very well researched and done in an interesting way. In a world gone crazy, Mattie's actions often seem rational and her confusion is understandable. Anderson has taken a neglected historical event in US history and made a tightly plotted historical novel which would be enjoyable for not only history buffs, but anyone looking for a good read.