I have long since lost the excitement of the brown package containing a brand new proof copy. A good number of these find their way to my desk and my procedure for dealing with them is this – squeeze it. If it is a thin book then I tend to open it straight away as I guess it will be a book for younger readers and may well offer me something I have not read before. If it is a thick book, I pile it up to one side and will get round to it….eventually. This is because these once exciting jiffy bags all too often contain yet another YA title banging out the same old tired formulaic content. Tragic romance, vampires, wistful looks, agony filled embrace, more vampires, sobbing in dark corners, tragic and failed lives, more vampires…. yadda yadda yadda….oh yes, and more vampires….
A couple of weeks ago I received a copy of Dee Shulman’s Fever (Razorbill, pub April 2012) Interesting tag lines (“The Fever Is Coming” – “Two worlds. Two millennia. One love”) made me give it a skim and take it home. The accompanying letter and blurb promise many things – “Time travel with a romantic twist” – and assure me that the book is “whipping up a rights frenzy”
Well, that’s the spiel – what about the book?
Fever is the story of two young lives crossed at a moment in parallel time. Eva is a dazzlingly smart girl from the modern day, and Seth is a gladiator from Roman London, AD152. Their lives are tragically both linked and held apart by time, and each is desperate to find what has become of them, and the other.
I feel that I am not really doing the book justice with such a basic explanation, but I genuinely don’t want to give too much away for the reader. The story is very vivid and the character building is both strong and natural – you really get to like Eva and Seth and quickly bond with them.
In Eva we have a rare thing; an academically gifted female character who is instantly likeable. Her intellect means that the text is never dumbed down; in fact I feel that it is bravely academic in places. Frankly this is a blessing in this market place – my own teenager is bored rigid with being treated like a snog-fest addict with a brain the size of a Minto – and she is not alone. For all of those teenagers who have been patronised by other YA fiction and feel like this, hurrah, a book for you!
Seth is….well…. he’s beautiful. A gladiator honed for combat and trained to kill and stay alive, he is at his peak physical fitness when disaster befalls him because he falls in love. He is instantly likeable and we all, umm, love him.
Eva and Seth are inexorably linked through time and, though they can feel this, they can’t explain it or make sense of it and both of them do everything they can to attempt to discover what has happened to them. The medical scenes are superbly researched (I had to look some things up as I was curious about the virology talked about the book) as are the scenes set in Roman Londinium. This gives the book a depth and sense of gravitas that many YA books are sadly lacking.
Fever is an undeniably passionate book, and pretty sexy too without ever being cloying or drifting into that ghastly genre of tragic and depressed teens sucking face and crying all over the place. Fever is, quite simply, a captivating and passionate time-slip love story with a ghostly twist (and no vampires!)
I found myself dreading the end as I drew close to it because I knew that it couldn’t possibly end the way I wanted it to in the few pages left. But it did, and I’m very glad that it will be a trilogy.
Fever by Dee Shulman is out 5th April 2012 with Razorbill (Puffin)