Module 4 – Realistic Fiction/SLIS 5420
Bloor, Edward. (1997). Tangerine. Orlando: Harcourt.
Paul’s family moves from Texas to Florida and Paul must adjust to his new school and deal with his football star brother’s bullying. Paul has a visual impairment and he can’t remember exactly what happened, but he knows his brother Erik had something to do with it. If only he could remember what had happened to him when he was only five, and what Eric had to do with it. His parents are devoted to the “Erik Fisher Football Dream” and Paul is largely ignored, as is his brother’s disturbing behavior. Paul is independent and begins to make new friends and navigate the complicated middle school social scene. He longs to be a soccer star, and he strives to accomplish his goal despite his vision problems. The subdivision the Fishers have moved to have some peculiar problems (brilliantly written social satire) and more problems occur when Paul actually has to change schools and start over again. Paul’s triumphs and the family’s final confrontation of Erik’s problems is portrayed realistically and powerfully by Bloor. Seventh grader Paul is a unique, well-written character who learns to stand up for what he believes, stand up for himself, and stand up for his real friends. How to be a real friend is central to the novel’s theme. Middle schoolers experiencing the complicated social structure of middle school and struggling to become their own persons will identify with Paul, a hero in his own right. The chapters about the soccer games are an added bonus that will attract athletes and add to the book’s appeal for male readers (in addition to the male protagonist).
“A legally blind seventh-grader with clearer vision than most wins acceptance in a new Florida school as his football-hero older brother self-destructs in this absorbing, multi-stranded debut. Paul’s thick lenses don’t keep him from being a first-rate soccer goalie, but they do make him, willy-nilly, a “handicapped” student and thus, according to his new coach, ineligible to play. After a giant sinkhole swallows much of his ramshackle school, Paul is able to transfer to another school where, with some parental collusion, he can keep his legal status a secret. It turns out to be a rough place, where “minorities are in the majority,” but Paul fits himself in, playing on the superb soccer team (as a substitute for one of the female stars of the group) and pitching in when a freeze threatens the citrus groves. Bloor fills in the setting with authority and broad irony: In Tangerine County, Florida, groves are being replaced by poorly designed housing developments through which drift clouds of mosquitoes and smoke from unquenchable “muck fires.” Football is so big that not even the death of a player struck by lightning during practice gets in the way of NFL dreams; no one, including Paul’s parents, sees how vicious and amoral his brother, Erik, is off the field. Smart, adaptable, and anchored by a strong sense of self-worth, Paul makes a memorable protagonist in a cast of vividly drawn characters; multiple yet taut plotlines lead to a series of gripping climaxes and revelations. Readers are going to want more from this author.”
This book would be excellent for a book talk or bookstudy, but it would also be good to have on a reading list for middle school readers to choose for SSR or book reports or projects. While some reviewers indicated they thought Paul’s insights were too mature for his age, I disagree. Don’t discount the insight that the socially awkward often have into what is unfolding around them. Using this book in class could help students struggling with similar issues. Though it would probably not make it onto a required list, having it available as a choice for a class project would be worthwhile for adolescents navigating similar waters. Discussions could be built around important “scenes” from the book for a reading project.
Kirkus Review starred 2/1/07
Notable/Best Books (ALA) 1/19/98