Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Book Review: Deadly by Julie Chibbaro

Green Bean Teen Queen hosts a meme on Tuesdays called Tween Tuesday where great books for tweens are featured. This Tuesday, I am going to feature: Deadly by Julie Chibbaro. Technically this book is a YA title, but I believe it is better suited for tweens.

More of my Tween Tuesday posts.

Deadly by Julie Chibbaro
Release Date: February 22, 2011
Atheneum/Simon & Schuster
Pages: 288
Received: ARC from publisher and 
won an ARC from The Book Scout
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads Page


Product description: 

A mysterious outbreak of typhoid fever is sweeping New York. Could the city’s future rest with its most unlikely scientist?  

If Prudence Galewski is ever going to get out of Mrs. Browning’s esteemed School for Girls, she must demonstrate her refinement and charm by securing a job appropriate for a young lady. But Prudence isn’t like the other girls. She is fascinated by how the human body works and why it fails. 

With a stroke of luck, she lands a position in a laboratory, where she is swept into an investigation of the fever bound to change medical history. Prudence quickly learns that an inquiry of this proportion is not confined to the lab. From ritzy mansions to shady bars and rundown tenements, she explores every potential cause of the disease. But there’s no answer in sight—until the volatile Mary Mallon emerges. Dubbed “Typhoid Mary” by the press, Mary is an Irish immigrant who has worked as a cook in every home the fever has ravaged. Strangely, though, she hasn’t been sick a day in her life. Is the accusation against her an act of discrimination? Or is she the first clue in a new scientific discovery?

Prudence is determined to find out. In a time when science is for men, she’ll have to prove to the city, and to herself, that she can help solve one of the greatest medical mysteries of the twentieth century.


Let me just start out by saying I am so disappointed with this book! (Can you hear my foot stomping in petulant frustration?) This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2011 and when I got an ARC I was beyond excited. And then, argh, I didn’t love it. How crappy is that feeling of book disappointment, right?

Ok, ok, you don’t want to hear me sob. I know you want to know why I was so disappointed. Here’s why, and most of it is my own fault. Part of the reason I enjoy historical fiction so much is because it’s a fun way to learn about history. I also have a strange fascination with learning about diseases. I was hoping this book would teach me a bunch of facts about typhoid and the early discoveries about the disease, but that didn’t happen. 

We do learn about typhoid a little, and so I guess if a person really knows very little about the disease then they would learn a bit. But me, I guess I knew too much already because I learned nothing new. There was also very little about the disease itself: the symptoms and progression, how many people died, etc. You know, the gory details. 

That turned out to not really be the focus of the book though, so you can chalk up my disappointment here more to my false expectations than any failing on the author’s part. Instead, the focus of this book was on the social and moral implications of quarantining an unwilling person. The question of where you draw the line between an individual’s freedom and the safety of the population at large was explored sensitively and in a way that really did make me think. 

My second complaint is, again, not the author’s fault. Deadly is categorized as a YA book, but I think it really should be MG/juvenile. Prudence is a YA in age, but in voice she struck me as much younger. Her thoughts were simple and there was a certain immaturity to her voice. I found myself unable to really connect with her because of this. 

The writing is simple with short chapters, a very straightforward plot, and subject matter suitable for a younger reader. I think this might have been a more enjoyable story if it had been written in the third person instead of journal entries (usually I enjoy journal entries). Part of this is because Prudence speaks in a very clinical, detached voice and that also made it difficult for me to connect to her. 

I actually think the perfect audience for this book would be girls who adored the American Girl series but have recently outgrown them. There’s just something about the writing style, Prudence’s voice, her dilemma, and the little drawings that accompany her journal that reminded me of the American Girl books. If this book had been categorized as a MG/juvenile title I would have given it a higher rating (probably a solid four). As it stands, the book just doesn’t have the weight or depth of some other YA historical fiction novels (like Cate of the Lost Colony). 

I do recommend this book to people who know very little about typhoid and don’t mind the younger tone. I think this book would also be a hit among MG/juvenile girls who enjoy the Dear America series, The Royal Diaries series, or the Lady Grace Mysteries.
 Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key  

Challenges this book satisfies:

Review Comparison: Deadly

Review Comparison is a new feature I'm trying out where I am pulling out the pros and cons of the featured book mentioned in my review and other bloggers' reviews. Please let me know how you like this new feature and if you have any suggestions on how to make it better. I'm still playing around with the format.

The following bloggers kindly allowed me to include their reviews in this feature: 

Please click on the links to read their full reviews.  


It looks like readers who had less knowledge of typhoid and Typhoid Mary enjoyed the book a lot more. Most reviewers liked the main character very much.
 ~Historical details~

o   “The book felt real” (The Little Bookworm)
o   The facts surrounding typhoid were eye opening, interesting, and well-researched (The Book Scout)
o   Didn’t learn anything new (Small Review)
o   Lacks weight and depth when  compared to similar books (Small Review)


o   Difficult to connect with main character due to detached voice and “younger” age (Small Review)
o   “Emotions were very genuine” (The Little Bookworm)
o   Prudence was a “great character” (The Little Bookworm)
o   Prudence was a refreshing character (Fragments of Life)
o   Very strong, determined, and likable main character (The Book Scout)


o   Wish there was more romance (Fragments of Life)
o   Mary Mallon’s story was fascinating (The Little Bookworm)
o   Engrossing (Fragments of Life)
o   Reading about the mystery made [me] “anxious and eager” (Fragments of Life)
o   Moral issues explored sensitively (Small Review)
o   Thought-provoking (Small Review)

Looking for something similar? You might like: 
Assassin (The Grace Mysteries #1), by Lady Grace Cavendish (aka Patricia Finney)  


  1. Oh, bummer. I really hate being disappointed in a book, as well. Heh, it's funny that you wanted to hear more gory details... but I think I would too! Perhaps the author didn't want to get too gross with the younger tone of the book.
    Love the review comparison! So nice to be able to see multiple viewpoints in one spot. I can't think of any suggestions to improve on it.

  2. That sucks when a book you have been looking forward to is a disappoint. I think I will take this off my list now. It sounds a little young for me. Great review :)

  3. That's a shame! I think I'll take this one off my list too as I love historical details like in Cate Of The Lost Colony. I really like the review comparison, it's useful and like to see the different ways bloggers felt about the book. I think it's fantastic as it is :)

  4. I know how you feel. You all excited and then it is not as good as you think. That has happened to me a few times before. Thanks for your honesty in the review.

  5. Aw, sorry you didn't like it. I think I attributed the detached emotion to Prudence's need to maintain clinical standoffishness. But I can see it as an older middle grade/younger YA.

    Thanks for including my review. I enjoyed your review comparison.

  6. Thank you for including my review here! Aww. Such a shame you didn't like it! But things like that happen to us bloggers!

  7. That's a shame that you didn't like it - I absolutely hate it when a book is marketed as one thing, and it turns out to be only a minor point in the story - sell what the book is, please!! Thanks for your honest review!

    -Linds, bibliophile brouhaha

  8. I love how you explained why the book didn't work for you. It's amazing how our expectations can inluence our opinions. I think I'd actually like this book, even more because your review would help me appreciate it for what it is.

  9. That's too bad. I hate when that happens. Maybe that's why I'm resisting starting XVI. I really want to like that book, but what if I don't?

    Also, I like the new feature!

  10. I'd actually never heard of this book before you featured it! I'm sorry that it was a letdown for you - it sucks when that happens!

  11. I hate when I have expectations for a book and they fall short. I'll to look into this one as a possible YA for tweens.

  12. Wow - I love your new feature! That's awesome looking at others' reviews and putting it into your post! I'll be watching for more. Oh, and great review too :)

  13. I make my freshmen read "Typhoid Mary" (just an excerpt) at the beginning of the year and it's definitely a learning experience for them. I love your new feature!

  14. Aylee, I really did want more gory details. I kept waiting for this huge body count and all I got were about 40 sick and maybe not even ten dead. I guess I should read a book about the plague instead. :P You’re probably right about the younger tone. The book would have really been unmoored if it had graphic details and then a MG voice.

    I’m so glad you like the comparison! It was really fun putting it together and seeing what themes kept cropping up across the various reviews.

    Nic, It was so disappointing. I was super excited when I got it, too. The real shame is that I think I would have loved it if I had the proper expectations.

    Stephanie, There were historical details, but the tone and feel was a lot younger than Cate. I didn’t feel quite as immersed as I did with Cate. So glad you like the review comparison!

    Savannah, Yes, it was exactly like how you describe. I think I might try a reread in the future with the proper expectations and see how I enjoy it.

    Andrea, Thanks again for allowing me to include your review! I do agree with you about Prudence’s standoffishness. I think you’re right and it did suit her character. I just had trouble connecting with her.

    Precious, Thank you for letting me include it! I think I did like the book, it just wasn’t what I was hoping it would be.

    Linds, Exactly!! I’ve had that happen a few times. It’s especially annoying when it’s a YA book but should be MG or a MG that should be YA. I appreciate it when reviewers give me a heads up about that and I try to do the same.

    Alison, I’m glad my review has helped! I do think it is a good book and do recommend it, but I recommend it for what it IS, not for what it is advertised to be.

  15. Logan, LOL! I’ve done that too! I have such high expectations for certain books that I’d almost rather not read them so I can go on being happy with them rather than possibly disappointed. Glad you like the new feature!

    Leanna, It does suck! I’m happy to introduce you to a new book :) If you like the sound of it and don’t mind a younger tone, then I definitely do recommend it.

    GreenBeanTeenQueen, I hope your library kids like it! I can think of a few of mine who have outgrown the American Girl series and will appreciate this book.

    Melissa, Thanks! I love comparing things like that and watching for trends or explanations for differences.

    Miss Remmers, Oh I can imagine it would be an eye-opening experience! I did like the way the author presented Mary and the situation she was caught in. So happy you enjoyed the feature!

  16. You call this a review, I call it an literary analysis, but I wouldn't expect anything less from my favorite librarian.

    I think some of the points you have made here are reasons why I'm weary of trying historical fiction. It seems to me that my interest in it is sincere enough, but I hate dealing with book disappointment, and I've already come across some a few highly anticipated that more than disappointed me. *sighs*

    But thank you for the suggestion!

    Also, the market for YA is huge right now, so if the publishers think that can get away with categorizing the book as such, they will. I know I read a couple of books last year because I thought they were YA and the turned out to be MG. *double sigh*

  17. Missie! You are too sweet :D

    I do love historical fiction, but I was hoping for something that would really immerse me in the world and this didn't do it for me.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment about publishers and the YA market now. It's very frustrating as both a reader and a librarian having these books put in categories I don't think they belong in. I think it also gives the wrong impression to adult readers that YA is "dumbed down" which gets a big *triple sigh* from me. :(

  18. Aw, I'm sorry to hear it was so disappointing! This one is actually one I've been looking forward to as well but after having read your review I'm definitely lowering my expectations. It's a shame that it's described as being so much about the disease when it's more about social and moral implications (not that there's anything wrong with that, but it does set up the reader for a completely different story than the one they get from what you've said). Marketing it as YA when the voice is younger is another issue I can understand would be frustrating...seems like a large part of the problem is really the marketing more than anything else, perhaps?

  19. Stomping feet, too! Drats. I was so look forward to this book. I might check this one out when it's at the library. If it's more MG than why is it YA? Ugh. I don't mind when something is MG but totally let down when it's categorized as YA. It also seems like the book would focus a lot on typhoid. Oh well...

  20. I really really like the idea of a comparison post. However, I'm not sure if I fancy it at the bottom of the review. I think I may appreciate it more as a stand along post with the link to the review of the book near the top. Also, I think the review post should have a link to the comparison post at the bottom. Why? You ask (or even if you didn't I thought I'd tell you anyways - lol) because I think adding it to the bottom of your review makes it a really LONG post. It seems a bit overwhelming and slightly intimidating to read it all. Although it AWESOME and exciting material, I will have more of a tendency to skim it. Where if it were in two separate posts I think it would feel more manageable to read.

    Just my two cents! For what its worth.

  21. Danya, I don’t know if I’d lower your expectations so much as shift them. For what the book actually is, I think it’s very good. It just wasn’t what I was expecting. The debate between ethics and safety was well done, I thought. You’re exactly right in saying my problem is with the marketing. As a YA book I can’t give this a higher rating because it just doesn’t compare to great YA historical fiction. As a MG book though I’d give it a solid 4 stars.

    Julie, I don’t know why they categorized it as YA. I haven’t heard any other reviews mention that though, so maybe it’s just my perception? I do think Missie made a good point though in saying publishers are probably trying to make everything YA because it’s a hot market right now. Doesn’t it seem like it would focus more on the disease? The disease is present, but I think they figured everything out easily and quickly. There wasn’t really that sense of “racing against time” that I thought would be there.

    Gina, YES!! Thank you! I actually already set up the second comparison and review exactly as you suggested. Down to where I placed the links even! Wow, we are like mental twins. :) I was thinking the exact same thing about such a long post. Thanks so much for your feedback!


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