Sunday, September 11, 2011

Deadly: How to Catch an Invisible Killer by Julie Chibbaro

It is 1906, New York City and 16 year old Prudence Galewski takes a job as an assistant to the Head Epidemiologist, Mr. Soper.  Prudence has always been interested in science and feels very fortunate to land a job in the field.   It is practically unheard of for a woman to get such a job.  In fact, some of the men in the lab give her a hard time.

Soon after starting her and Mr. Soper start investigating a new outbreak of Typhoid.  They visit the different families who have the dreaded disease and write down all of the different foods they have eaten and take samples from their septic systems.  Soon Prudence finds a food that links all of the families, peach ice cream.  It turns out that they all have a cook who has worked for all of them, who made the peach ice cream for them.

It was recently discovered by a scientist that disease could be carried by a healthy person.  The person doesn't get sick but can pass the illness on to others. 
"The challenge ahead of us is to find this elusive cook and test her for the typhoid germ by examining her body fluids."
The cook, Mary Mallon has moved around a lot but Prudence and Mr. Soper finally tracks her down.  She refuses to get tested, she can't understand how she could make people sick when she, herself is not sick. 

Mary Mallon was a real person who was to become known as Typhoid Mary. Julie Chibbaro takes a piece of history and runs with it.  She developed her main character Prudence well and we see her learn and grow.  As I read the story I kept thinking to myself, "you go girl, show people that not all women should be chained to a house with no other aspirations."

Deadly is geared for young adults.  It deals with issues of disease, feminism, and family.  It also explores ethical issues.  I think it would make for  great discussion for a young adult book club.  Though there is science in the book, it is well explained in fairly simple terms.  I highly recommend it!



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