Farrell, Jeanette. Invisible Enemies: Stories of Infectious Diseases. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2005. 259 pages.
Smallpox, leprosy, plague, tuberculosis, malaria, cholera, and AIDS are profiled in vivid description, accompanied by photographs and drawings from the times each disease was most prevalent. For each infectious disease, Farrell examines the misconceptions surrounding the disease, how it was treated when it was prevalent, who and how a cure was discovered, and how or if the disease has evolved and its impact on our current lives.
Invisible Enemies is written in lyrical prose that reads more like fiction than nonfiction and readers will be astounded by the detail with which Farrell writes; she often focuses on minor incidents that show mankind at its best and worst. Because Farrell focuses on several diseases that teens may have heard of, but never knew much about (leprosy, tuberculosis), she will capture teens’ interest and maintain it throughout the book. Perhaps the section on AIDS is not necessary, as most teens have been learning about AIDS since their elementary school health classes; I realize that AIDS is an pandemic that is important to learn more about, but Farrell did not present any information that would not be talked about in a classroom.
The cover of Invisible Enemies features writhing, tortured bodies from a variety of time periods melded into the shape of a skull, all on a black background. The cover is extremely eye-catching and equally appealing. This book will definitely be noticed on the shelves.