1990s Nostalgia: The Fever Diane Hoh
Okay, I confess. When I found this one down at my local Savers I was just a teeny-tiny bit excited. Along with RL Stine's The Babysitter, The Fever was one of my favourite novels from the Scholastic's Point Horror series. In fact, I remember borrowing a copy from the library at my school and reading it all in one day. It was that good. I loved the creepy setting of a run down and underfunded hospital. The protagonist, Duffy (love that name) is confined to her bed whilst suffering a mysterious illness. One night, while in the midst of a fever, she witnesses a murder. And the murderer will go to any length to make sure that Duffy does not remember the crime or tell anyone what happened ...
It is surprising how much I remembered of this novel. Along with the setting, some parts of this story are damn creepy. Such as Duffy's mysterious illness (which is never quite explained,) or how her attempts to escape from the hospital are foiled by a mysterious person that she cannot see. During the course of the novel, Duffy almost falls down an empty elevator shaft, she is attacked from behind inside a darkened shower stalls and her medication is tampered with. Consequently, I was really looking forward to rereading this one again. And was I disappointed?
Not really. Obviously, it's a children's pulp horror fiction and there were going to be some problems with it. The book suffers from the usual stereotypes of this genre--all adults in the novel are either very distant figures (Duffy's parents are said to be accountants and its tax time, meaning that they cannot possibly visit their ailing daughter in hospital,) or cruel authority figures, such as the evil Uncle who adopted Duffy's best friend Kit and is now insisting that Kit pay him back for all of the money he spent on Kit's upbringing. And, of course, because the book is aimed at twelve year olds, the teenage main characters all have a surprising amount of responsibility--the hospital is more or less run by a bunch of seventeen and eighteen year old volunteers. Who all seem to stay on volunteering after midnight, despite the fact that they are all in their final year of high school. Naturally, one of the teens is a murderer, another falls victim to the murderer and the others are all suspects. Including a very attractive male who goes on to be Duffy's love interest at the end of the novel. There are plenty of plot holes and I doubt anything even vaguely like the events depicted could happen at a real hospital, but hey, it's meant to shock, not offer an accurate depiction of what its like to be a teenager stuck in hospital.
All in all, The Fever was a fun read and one of the better ones from the series to revist for nostalgic purposes. Definitely worth the 99 cents I paid for it.
Horror is an interesting and brilliant genre--it's one that has an ability to turn pages while making very relevant comments about the human psyche. I have a lot of respect for people who write horror novels for children--I suspect in some ways it's probably harder than writing horror for adults (i.e. not making it too scary, and plausibly explaining any psychosis or paranormal phenomenon in a way that younger readers can understand).