Dead­ly: How Do You Catch an Invis­i­ble Killer?

  • Review
By – November 7, 2011

Dead­ly is Julie Chibbaro’s sec­ond book, a riv­et­ing teen read deliv­ered in the form of a diary by pro­tag­o­nist Pru­dence, a sev­en­teen-year-old Jew­ish teen liv­ing in New York in the ear­ly 1900s. Fierce­ly obser­vant of life around her and deeply trou­bled by death and dis­ease, Pru­dence seems set to fin­ish pol­ish­ing school and become a typ­ist until she is hired as an assis­tant by the New York Depart­ment of Health. The job cat­a­pults her into the worlds of research and med­i­cine, com­pelling and fas­ci­nat­ing her but also fright­en­ing her with the choic­es they demand. Under the guid­ance of her boss, Mr. Sop­er, Pru­dence begins inves­ti­gat­ing the source of a typhoid epi­dem­ic, even­tu­al­ly trac­ing the invis­i­ble killer” dis­ease to Mary Mal­lon, a cook for the rich. This is where fic­tion and non-fic­tion col­lide, for through the voice of her lead char­ac­ter, Chib­baro retells Mallon’s sto­ry as the first per­son iden­ti­fied as a typhoid car­ri­er and the effects this iden­ti­fi­ca­tion had on her life. 

Prudence’s diary entries are com­pelling, com­bin­ing the matu­ri­ty of a woman com­ing of age with an envi­ron­ment in which women were seen as far from equal. Lim­it­ed by pover­ty and her gen­der, Pru­dence nev­er­the­less forges ahead pro­fes­sion­al­ly, com­mit­ted to her ambi­tion and learn­ing in the process about love, loy­al­ty, and her family’s deep­est fears. Dead­ly is a quick, easy, and fun read, par­tic­u­lar­ly for teens inter­est­ed in his­to­ry, med­i­cine, or both. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 12 and up.

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Lau­ren Kramer is a Van­cou­ver-based jour­nal­ist, wife, and moth­er with a life­long pas­sion for lit­er­a­ture. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, she has won awards for her writ­ing and report­ed from many cor­ners of the world. Read more of her work at www​.lau​renkramer​.net.

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