Publication Date: April 26, 2022
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Horror; Historical Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Spiders, racism, sexism, death of children, mass illness, miscarriage
The Fervor is a supernatural horror set in America during World War 2 and follows four characters that all converge together in unexpected ways. Meiko and her daughter, Aiko, are living at a Japanese interment camp when a mysterious illness starts to spread around the camp. Fran and Archie both have their lives changed when they come into contact with peculiar balloons that are landing in different spots around the country. The addition of Japanese folklore gives this story the creepy and disturbing bits of horror that are seamlessly blended into the hideous nature of how America treated the Japanese during this span of time.
All four characters give the reader a look at what life was like during 1944. Between life at the interment camps to the hatred and racism for the Japanese (with no distinction between someone American born or not) and the historical accuracy of the balloons, The Fevor offers an unflinching look at life during the war. Beyond the disgusting way the Japanese were treated (and this book doesn’t shy away from showing that) The Fervor also cleverly layers in the Japanese yokai and also a spider demon named, Jorogumo. All these different aspects of the story made for such an engaging read that left my cringing and shocked.
I knew about Japanese internment camps but the balloon element of the story was something that I thought the author invented for the story and I was shocked to realize that it was based in historical accuracy. Obviously, the way Katsu used the balloons in the story was fantastical but I love when historical fiction vividly shows me a time in history. There were also very clear parallels from the horrific way Asian Americans (specifically Japanese) were treated then versus the appalling hate crimes they are facing now in America. It is a very clear indication that America still has a ways to go when it comes to equality and eradicating hate.
I will say that for how much I enjoyed the story I did find it lacking in the second half. I loved the pacing of the first half but the second half just felt like Katsu was trying to get the characters to where she needed them for the ending and I didn’t like the disjointed feeling it gave the story. The ending also built up the suspense and then it was just over in the blink of an eye and I was left feeling a little let down.
Overall, this was a great read that delivers on horror in many senses of the word. The horror of the yokai and the jorogumo added a much needed creepy vibe to the story. I also found the times with overt racism and hatred toward the Japanese and also the few sexist moments to also be horrific to read. For me, the worst kind of horror is the kind based in reality and this book had a lot of that. I don’t often read historical fiction horror and I really enjoyed the way those two elements played off each other. If you want a unique look at what America was like in 1944 coupled with some frightening elements then this is a book you should definitely add to your want to read list.