Red Madness: How A Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat by Gail Jarrow


It’s probable that few young adult readers have even heard of the disease Pellagra, though it ravaged the South through much of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Jarrow presents readers with a glimpse into a world in which “germ theory” was finally being accepted as fact, “quack” doctors concocted poisonous “cures”, and the nation was scrambling to find a cure for the ugly disease which had just become rampant. Written as a mystery, Jarrow’s piece hold readers’ attention even through the more technical, scientific parts, and the ending may surprise readers as it illuminates why a well-known ingredient today became so common.

So this book was really good. I was unsure about it, because I usually don’t like science-y things and it’s about a scary/gross disease. BUT, it was really good. I liked the fact that it really does read like a mystery — there was more than one part when I was like “Oh, that’s what caused the disease”…but I was wrong. I have to appreciate that suspense in a nonfiction book! So, if you like medicine, science, weird diseases, history, or you just need a good nonfiction book, give this one a try! My biggest take away: I’m so glad they figured out the cause/cure for this disease!

Rating: 4/5

*School Library Journal, Best Books, Nonfiction, 2014

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here. 


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