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Karen's Young Adult Book Reviews
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Best of Enemies/Fever 1793

Best of Enemies


Three young adults from three very different cultures learn to become friends in this book. Mundo is the son of a wealthy New Mexican rancher. His sister is about to be wed to another wealthy man’s son. They learn that the soldiers are advancing their way toward their ranch and send men to fight against them. Mundo had lost his mother when he was very young because the Texans had tried to take over New Mexico. He talks his father into letting him go along. Though it was against his wishes, he lets Mundo go. At the first sign of shooting, his father charges forward and Mundo runs.


On the way to the wedding, one of wagons, which is carrying a present for Mundo’s sister, breaks down. The men are left behind to fix it. The present inside the wagon is a young Navajo girl, Tenchi. She is a weaver and is to be given as a wedding present to Mundo’s sister. Two rustlers overcome the men she is with and take her hostage. She convinces them she is worth money so that she can survive.


He meets up with a very young wounded soldier, Riley. Riley attempts to hold him prisoner. He sees what he thinks is a soldier on his side is one of the men who have taken Tenchi. The man finds out that Mundo has a wealthy father and decides he wants to send for a ransom for him. He takes all three young people with him. Riley is bleeding tremendously and fades in and out of consciousness.


Eventually, the three plan for escape with the knife that Tenchi has stolen from the men. Although she does not want to trust Mundo, he convinces her that she has to try. Riley tells them he will tell the men they are escaping if they do not take him with them. They get away together. Mundo wants to find his way home for help. He leaves Tenchi to care for Riley until he either gets better or dies. He promises he will send for help when he arrives at home. He loses his way and runs across the cowboys who had held them. One of them chases him back to Tenchi and Riley. Riley, only strong enough to hold his gun on a rock and shoot, kills the cowboy.


They all know the other rustler will come looking for him, so they hide his body. The teens are in an old Indian ruin when an earthquake strikes. At the time, Mundo and Tenchi are arguing. They separate in anger and rocks from the ruin fall on Mundo. Riley and Tenchi try to find Mundo. Tenchi is sent for help as Riley tries to dig Mundo free. He finds Mundo under the rocks, but is only able to clear an airway for him. His legs are caught under huge rocks and he cannot lift them in his weakness. He searches for something to help him lift the rocks and decides on his gun. The gun is ruined in the rescue, but he frees Mundo. Tenchi arrives with Mundo’s sister and help.


Mundo asks his sister to free Tenchi when she becomes her gift so that she can return to her Navajo family. Riley returns to war when he is better, and he and Mundo eventually meet again in war.


Suzanne Pierson Ellison has written an excellent historical fiction novel. It was very enjoyable. The reader can relate to the characters. The description of what all three main characters must have been feeling was wonderful. Three young adults from different cultures shows young readers that you sometimes have to look beyond cultures when others need help. The maturity that they gain from making decisions and using their survival skills is quite interesting to envision. Ellison uniquely captures the reader’s attention with the survival skills the three must learn quickly in order to sustain life. The reader sees Mundo grow from an arrogant rich son to a compassionate friend to two likely enemies. This is definitely a historical novel worth reading.


One reader states that, “Best of Enemies was a considerably good book. It wasn't dull and had a lot of action and enthusiasm” (


Another reader comments, “the theme of friendship across enemy lines is somewhat forced. Despite these flaws, the book is an engaging adventure that should appeal to historical-fiction fans” (


A teen reader states, ” I think that the Best of Enemies was a pretty good book. It had a good, substantial plot with lots of sensory details. All of that was combined with some history on the Civil War and what it was like for teenagers fighting. I think that kids in Jr. High/Middle School would enjoy reading this book because anyone younger would be too difficult and it does have some history in it that they might not understand” (


Ellison, Suzanne Pierson. 1998. Best of Enemies. Arizona: Northland Publishing Company.



Again Books. Accessed 15 July, 2005. Book Reviews. Accessed 15 July, 2005.


Analisa. Accessed 15 July, 2005.

Fever 1793


Matilda lived above a coffeehouse with her mother and grandfather in Philadelphia. Matilda’s father has died. They have a cook and a maid. The maid does not show up one morning and they later find out she has died. Other people start becoming ill and there is talk that the sickness called “yellow fever” is spreading. Matilda’s mother becomes ill and is misdiagnosed. Later, it is determined that she too has the fever. She wants Matilda to stay with friends in the country until she is better so that Matilda does not become ill. Grandfather attempts to take her, but as they travel with others to the country, they are stopped and checked for fever. Grandfather was not doing well from the heat, so they were not allowed to travel through inside the town. The other couple leaves them behind. Grandfather becomes extremely ill, and they have to rest awhile before they can travel. While Matilda attempts to find water, she too falls ill.


When she awakes, she finds out that she had been stricken with the fever and has been recovering along with many others. Grandfather is there waiting for her recovery. They decide to go back home once Matilda is released. They find no one there when they return and assume that Matilda’s mother tried to join them in the country. Grandfather is still not well and it is extremely hot inside the coffeehouse. Matilda goes downstairs to sleep and leaves the window shutters open and two men raid the house. Matilda tries to escape, but they catch her. Grandfather scares them off, but he is so ill that he eventually dies.


Matilda finds a small child and rescues her and then finds her family’s cook. The cook takes them in awhile and convinces Matilda that she must take the small child to the orphanage. She does, but finds the place crowded and not willing to take more. When many bodies are buried and the illness subsides, Matilda’s mother does return home, but in grave health which lives her to care for their business.


Laurie Halse Anderson’s book is very well-written. The descriptions in the book are magnificent including the descriptions of the illness is very graphic. The book is interesting and leaves the reader wanting to finish the book quickly to find out what happens to Matilda. The reader finds himself or herself relating to Matilda and having compassion on her situation. The reader sees Matilda as a young child in the beginning and growing mature because of the situation.


One reader states that, “Throughout Laurie Halse Anderson's second novel, you are immersed in Mattie's world. When the fever starts, the heat and heaviness come off the pages in waves, leaving you breathing carefully, as if to avoid impure air, and wanting to wash your hands immediately to rid yourself of germs” (

Another reader comments, “The relationship with the mother is emotionally problematic in the beginning; it becomes clear that her husband's death has embittered her. At the end, illness has profoundly changed the nature of their love and dependency on each other. Provides a memorable glimpse into medical history for young people. Each chapter starts with an epigraph from period documents and an appendix giving more historical information invites readers to further inquiry” (

One teen reader comments, “I would recommend this book to a student who feels that he is being held back from his dreams. This book motivates me to learn more about the country’s history. I had no idea that there was an actual epidemic in this country. I really want to know more”(

Another teen states, “This book was great!!! It was hard to believe a book about a plague could be so interesting, but I couldn't stop reading it! It's about a 14-year-old girl who lived in the late 1700's. It was like a real person, not some goody-goody who does everything that she's told to do. It also doesn't have her family be unaffected, which would have made it boring. This is a really good book to read” (

Anderson, Laurie Halse. 2000. Fever 1793. New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers.



Building Rainbows. Accessed 14 July, 2005.

Accessed 14 July, 2005.


Kristen’ Accessed 14 July, 2005.


Created by K. Braswell for LS5623 at Texas Woman's University.