Lying on the floor, her mouth open, tongue lolling, Lise hadn't seemed like a girl at all.
It must have been a trick of the light, she told herself.
But looking down at Lise, lips stretched wide, Deenie thought, for one second, that she saw something hanging inside Lise's mouth, something black, like a bat flapping.
Megan Abbott's The Fever is NOT, in fact, a published X-Files episode. I hadn't read anything of hers before and had no idea what to expect, so when I read the above, I went "HEY this is clearly an alien/cryptozoology story." False. It is, however, a dark look at teen hysteria, teenage female friendship, and a weird little town that I'd very much like to drive around and look at more closely.
|Why aren't you reeeeal, Twin Peaks|
Basically there's the central family, which is Deenie, her brother Eli, and their father, Tom. The girls at Deenie's high school (including Deenie) have all recently gotten their HPV shots, and ALL OF A SUDDEN one of the girls has a fit at school and collapses. She is soon followed by others. What is going on. Is it the shot? SHOULD WE BE VACCINATING OUR CHILDREN (probably) and why are friendships in high school so dramatic, amirite?
Abbott strikes an interesting balance between portraying realistic relationship dynamics -- particularly between friends -- and also making everything just a little off. The people in this town are strange. And what was an extra-sell for me about the book is that it was relatable even when I, in fact, could not relate from my own experience. My high school was tiny. 120 kids tiny. Abbott delves into this weird, changing time in an adolescent's life when they're starting to become sexually active and discover who they are and navigate high school and all this, and honestly, my biggest concern in high school was how I could make my dad drive me two hours so I could see a preview screening of the movie Chicago. Movie musicals were making a comeback and I was going to be there, damnit.
|I think you all might be forgetting how great that movie is|
No one I knew was involved in even the outer limits of sexual activity. Or if they were, they certainly weren't going to tell me, because I was basically the abstinence movement's spokesperson and I judged. Hard. Turns out it's super-easy to be big on abstinence when you're not attracted to the opposite sex, but that's obviously another story.
So reading about these girls and their friendship dynamics felt foreign, but also familiar in unexpected ways. When you're out of high school and dealing with the usually much easier realm of adult friendships, you can forget things like how important it was to have your closest friends' locker combinations. How when one of your friends began to edge away with someone new, you couldn't do what you'd do now and just say "Dude, what the hell?" because you were a teenager and didn't know how to do that. You hadn't learned yet that most things aren't dramatic and silent agony is rarely the solution to your problems, however many awesome diary entries it might create.
|right, like that|
The Fever's a quick read, and Megan Abbott seems delightful on Twitter, so I recommend it. It definitely made me want to read her other stuff, which seems to bend towards the noir. This is a genre I'm slowly learning that I like, despite a lack of appreciation for Dashiell Hammett (his style's been too parodied! it's not his fault but it's still a fact!). Give me something dark with a twist and I am there 80% of the time. Also please drop lots of hints about someone not being who they seem to be. That's the best.