Cover of Fever Year, with an illustration of a doctor and nurse looking at a hospital room full of patients in beds

About the Book

Title: Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918
Published: 2019

Cover Story: Like the Name Says
Drinking Buddy:
MPAA Rating:
PG-13 (Death)
Talky Talk:
History Repeats Itself
Bonus Factor:
Bromance Status:
Social Distancing

Cover Story: Like the Name Says

Yep, that’s certainly a plague ward. If you look at the back cover, one of the nurses is pulling a sheet over a patient’s face.

The Deal:

It’s 1918. The Great War is entering its violent, final year. In the American Midwest, several soldiers report in sick. But the Doughboys are headed for France, and soon their strange new strain of flu spreads around the globe. Tens of millions die.


Two pints of beer cheersing

As the world concluded its most terrible war to date, the flu spread across the globe, even crossing no man’s land in the enemy trenches. At first, authorities refused to take the situation seriously, dismissing the disease as just a regular sickness that had almost run its course. Hell, we won the war against smallpox, didn’t we? When the scope of the disease became obvious, the authorities tried everything to stem the tide: mandatory face masks, closing down bars, restaurants, sports events, and schools. Quack nostrums abounded. People accused German agents of poisoning the U.S. or that the ‘flu’ was actually the result of a chemical warfare experiment that got out of control. Soon the hospitals and morgues became overwhelmed with the dying and the dead.

Incidentally, this strain of influenza is known, historically, as the Spanish Flu. Not that it originated in Spain or hit that country the hardest. It’s just that neither the Allies or the Central Powers wanted the world to know how bad their populations were infected, so they censored reports of the outbreak in the press. Only neutral Spain fully reported on the disease in their nation, so people erroneously thought the Spanish suffered the worst.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Death)

While it’s difficult to get an accurate body count, it’s likely more people died of the Spanish Flu than died in World War I. Doctors were unable to cope with this new virus and as the great cities became ghost towns, they were often helpless to do anything. Such notables as current president Woodrow Wilson, future president Franklin Roosevelt, and animator Walt Disney all contracted the flu.

Talky Talk: History Repeats Itself

Now, over 100 years later, we’re on the cusp of another epidemic. Some factions say we’re overreacting and this is no different from the bird flu, SARS, west Nile, and all the other health scares we’ve had over the years. Others say that it’s going to get worse before it gets better, and it’s best to be cautious. Still others say this is a worldwide conspiracy concocted by Justin Trudeau and Tom Hanks (no, really). All I know is that my only recent speaking gig was cancelled and you can’t buy sanitary wipes in my town.

This is a graphic novel and very well illustrated, with sepia-toned pictures that remind one of the photographs of the day. The story is interesting, if dry at times. Author Don Brown apparently likes tragedy; he’s written other graphic novels about Hurricane Katrina, Syrian refugees, and the Dust Bowl.

Bonus Factor: Pandemic

I’m old enough that I remember when AIDS was the new, unknown disease. Stay tuned. And stop attacking Asian people. Jesus.

Bromance Status: Social Distancing

This wasn’t exactly the book I needed right now, but it’s certainly relevant.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but no money or garlic (GARLIC! Garlic is the cure for this flu!)

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.