Anonymous asked:
It seems like a fair amount of people on GoodReads think The Fever is about slut-shaming but I thought it was more about how toxic (literally and figuratively) female friendships can be. What are your thoughts on it?


Oh man don’t freak me out like that—after I got this I paged hysterically through its goodreads reviews, trying to double check that nobody thought that this was a book that thought slut shaming was good. (Goodreads reviews from strangers are mostly one big intellectual abscess, particularly re. sexual agency politics, but apparently nobody’s THAT far gone.)


The Fever is worth discussing to hell and back, which is why I love it so fucking much—I want to get it in English class, I honestly want teen girls to learn to love deconstructing literature by writing essays about it. (Iago-101-style essays about whether or not Skye is an embodiment of evil and shit. Literal mirror-image boys enforcing how little the boys matter as people and how much they matter as vessels for the girls’ will. TATTOO IMAGES. MYSTERY LAKES. THE WAY IT IS SHAPED AROUND A METAPHOR WITHOUT BEING DIDACTIC AND WITHOUT RENDERING THE REST OF THE STORY EMPTY. WHEN HAS ANYTHING SINCE MOBY DICK, AND THIS DOESN’T HAVE INACCURATE WHALE BIO TO SKIM.) Everything has an explanation but still could be magic, which is how you know it’s capital-G Good.

But. Fundamentally, if I had to pick “what The Fever is about” and distil it down to one theme: it’s about teen girl desire as a galvanic force.

Not just sexual desire, though that’s an obvious outlet. Not just desire for each other, though that has the same giant terrifying emotional-physical reverb that the sex stuff does. Not just desire for attention or importance or things. It’s just about the gaping maw of want that exists at the center of all its girls, that it posits maybe potentially exists at the center of all teen girls, both because teen girls want everything so much with such thin veils of reserve and because the world is so intent on twisting those desires and denying them the ability to act as agents of it. It’s about the corruption of those desires through denial but not the desire itself as corrupt. So: yes, talking about toxic teen girl friendships because wanting to bite into each other’s space. Yes to engaging in the way teen girls talk about sex and each other having sex, that kind of hungry condemnation. But the Big Thing manages to get at both of those and more: the idea of wanting enough to make the world break a little, and the collateral damage of that when it can’t be shared or explained or attained.

It’s about Lise and the way it makes her shine, and the way other girls want that. It’s about Gabby picking a boy to want with everything in her hungry heart but being so feverblind with the actual act of wanting that she can’t pick him out of a lineup. It’s about Skye, agent of get what you want, take what you want. It’s about Deenie at the core, dissolving herself into her friendships to keep them together and thus becoming untouched by the epidemic by subsuming herself into her friends and feeling, as herself, slightly wrong even as she goes about “getting what she” (someone else, in any given moment) “wants”, whether it’s channeling Lise’s sexual experience or Gabby’s shadow. And about all the girls watching them and becoming a part of it because they want a taste of the scary magical thing at the center of the story.

Megan Abbott writes about teen girls wanting stuff. Always. This is about that force of desire as actual force, as capable of tearing through town bodies and girl bodies and rendering landscapes mythic and bouncing off unimportant boyscapes (literally!! the boys are so superfluous to the girls’ desires you can canonically substitute one for another). As magic, which I think is the best kind of teen girl magic.


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