Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Fever by Megan Abbott

The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hocky star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie's best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community. As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town's fragile idea of security. 

Read an e-galley from Little Brown

I haven't read any other books by Abbott, but something about this description and the cover of this book drew me in.  As a mysterious illness slowly starts to impact a high school class, everyone is questioning will I be next? Abbott tells the story from each character's perspective.  The confusion, the uncertainty, the gossip, the social media impact is spot on.  It's easy for the reader to relate with either the students or the parents or just as someone in the community.  I could see this book adapted into a long CSI episode - all the elements can be found.  There is even a little science fiction/fantasy element to this book.  A few times I got the chills from reading a passage here and there.  In the end the root cause is because of basic human emotions.  High school never changes when it comes to girls who like boys and boys who like girls.

King and Maxwell by David Baldacci

It seems at first like a simple, tragic story. Tyler Wingo, a teenage boy, learns the awful news that his father, a soldier, was killed in action in Afghanistan. Then the extraordinary happens: Tyler receives a communication from his father . . . after his supposed death. Tyler hires Sean and Michelle to solve the mystery surrounding his father. But their investigation quickly leads to deeper, more troubling questions. Could Tyler's father really still be alive? What was his true mission? Could Tyler be the next target?  Sean and Michelle soon realize that they've stumbled on to something bigger and more treacherous than anyone could have imagined. And as their hunt for the truth leads them relentlessly to the highest levels of power and to uncovering the most clandestine of secrets, Sean and Michelle are determined to help and protect Tyler--though they may pay for it with their lives.
There are some authors who are your go to defaults when you need a good book. For me David Baldacci is that default author.  As a library student I volunteered at a Friends of the Library bookstore and ended up finding on the shelf a David Baldacci book that was signed by the author. I became hooked from that book and always looked forward to the next adventure.

This book is the 6th in a series of books featuring business partners Sean and Michelle. I am sure there are other Baldacci fans who would LOVE to see these two characters become more than business partners.  I thought with them being mentioned in the title we would see their relationship deepen, but not much happened on that front.  There were a few close calls in this book where it looked like Sean and/or Michelle could finally get fatally injured.

Baldacci is a master with plot twists and turns and knows how to keep the reader turning those pages.  He recently was interviewed by ALA and said this about engaging the reader:

The only connection I can make with the reader on a human level is through the characters. The plot is the plot. But if they don't care about what happens to the characters, you can write a great plot with mediocre characters and no one is going to care.