Here Abbott dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Fever:
I never think of specific people while writing a book. It would feel too specific, maybe limiting. But, as a movielover since childhood, once the book is complete, I often imagine the possibilities. And so I find myself doing that with The Fever. It’s the story of the Nash family, father Tom, a high school science teacher, and his two teenage children, handsome hockey star Eli and earnest Deenie. Deenie’s friend is stricken by a violent seizure in class one day and, with terrifying rapidity, other girls at the school are similarly afflicted.Learn more about the book and author at Megan Abbott's website.
For Deenie, sixteen and serious, complicated and loyal, I imagine one actress. The same actress I had in mind after finishing my last novel, Dare Me, and the one before that, The End of Everything. And she is Kiernan Shipka, AKA Sally Draper on Mad Men.
I have loved Sally since Shipka’s first scene on the show, age six or seven, dry cleaning bag stretched over her upturned face. She is being scolded by her mother, not for risking suffocation but because she suspects Sally of making a mess in her closet. Everything about Sally, which are the things I see in Deenie, are in that brief scene. Feeling at the mercy of adults who are more concerned with their own cares. Feeling neglected. Wanting only to experience things, to have adventures, to explore.
And over the past seven seasons, we’ve seen Shipka develop and transform and, well, incandesce as Sally has. Now she’s a cigarette-wielding, mother-sassing teenager. But despite having been at the blunt end of her parents’ negligence, deceit and solipsism her entire life, Shipka shows through the nuance of her performance how Sally is still a fundamentally good and moral person—perhaps the show’s moral compass—which is how I see Deenie.
Is there any actress so skilled at managing the mix of innocence and cynicism, ardor and disappointment, curiosity and trepidation, as Shipka? And, as many times as her Sally is disillusioned, she is still infinitely capable of expressing fresh wonder, which seems to ripple across her face as if she’s surprising herself?
These are the elements I had in my head for Deenie Nash. For whom everything is changing in terrifying ways and for whom holding strong and fast to herself, her own moral compass, matters more than ever.