Code Orange

Code Orange

4.2 165
by Caroline B. Cooney

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While conducting research for a school paper on smallpox, Mitty finds an envelope containing 100-year-old smallpox scabs and fears that he has infected himself and all of New York City. See more details below


While conducting research for a school paper on smallpox, Mitty finds an envelope containing 100-year-old smallpox scabs and fears that he has infected himself and all of New York City.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Cooney's (The Face on the Milk Carton) rat-a-tat delivery and hairpin turns keep the pages turning in this attention-grabbing post-9/11 thriller. Hunting for a topic for his biology research paper on infectious disease, Manhattan private schooler Mitty Blake picks up an antique textbook, discovers an envelope within its pages, and takes out its contents: scabs from a long-ago smallpox epidemic. (Wild as this plot element may seem, it is based on a recent, real-life event, as a closing author's note explains.) Though initially pleased to have averted academic disaster, an ominous fear grows in the boy: Did he ingest a portion of the scabs and could he now be incubating the smallpox virus? Mitty's realization that he may be a walking viral time bomb is neatly underscored by Cooney's affectionate rendering of his uniquely New York lifestyle ("Everything was always open. Just to test this, Mitty and his dad would sometimes get a hot dog, sushi or a toothbrush at three a.m."). The protagonist's rash e-mail queries make him the target of a terrorist group that aims to harvest the smallpox virus from his body. As he improvises a daring yet ultimately plausible scheme to save his beloved city, Mitty makes a convincing transformation from sweet-natured slacker to bona fide hero. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Happy-go-lucky Mitty, a junior at a Manhattan prep school, finds his comfortable world turned upside down when he starts to research smallpox for a biology report and is accidentally exposed to old smallpox scabs he finds stuck in an envelope in an old medical book. Suddenly, his research takes on a new urgency—will he come down with smallpox and inadvertently unleash the dreadful virus on the world once again? When he sends out inquires about his plight on the Internet, the response isn't quite what he expects. Terrorists kidnap him, eager to use smallpox for their own nefarious purposes, and it takes all of Mitty's cleverness to defeat them. This thriller from the author of The Face on the Milk Carton and other novels for YAs incorporates lots of information on smallpox and its history, and readers will enjoy the suspense as Mitty first realizes his predicament and then must battle the terrorists. An intriguing topic, and an absorbing story. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2005, Random House, Delacorte, 192p. bibliog., and (Lib. bdg: ). Ages 12 to 18.
—Paula Rohrlick
Children's Literature
Sixteen-year-old Mitty Blake lives in Manhattan and attends an exclusive private school. He is bright enough but rarely exerts any effort involving school work. In fact, he always puts off doing assignments and rarely even hands them in on time, if at all.When Mr. Lynch, the biology teacher, insists that books be used for the class term paper, Mitty is overwhelmed, as he had planned to rely just on the internet. When he finds scabs from small pox in a one hundred year old medical book, life becomes very complicated. Is he infected because he handled them? Has he infected others? Will terroists try and get the scabs from him? Should he contact the authorities and/or the government? This thriller is sure to appeal to teenagers living in the post 9/11 world as well as those who can relate to Mitty's attitude toward school work. 2005, Delacorte Press, Ages 12 to 16.
—Sylvia Firth
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Most readers will have high expectations from the creator of The Face on the Milk Carton (1991) and the "Out of Time" series (both Random), but they might be a little disappointed in this offering. Mitty Blake is a talented but underachieving student in advanced biology at a New York City private high school. He is more interested in his friend Olivia than in completing his infectious-disease report, which could keep him from flunking. When he discovers a smallpox scab in an envelope in an old medical book, his research takes a somewhat urgent turn as he tries to determine whether he has contracted the disease. Searching for information on the Internet (thankfully, the high-achieving Olivia knows how to use a library), he inadvertently alerts a terrorist group to his situation. They kidnap Mitty with the intention of using him as a human biological weapon against the people of New York. This should be a highly suspenseful story, but the pacing is often slow and the characters underdeveloped. Even in this day and age, the terrorist angle seems far-fetched, and this underachiever's heroic efforts at the end seem out of character for him. Cooney's fans will undoubtedly read this book, but it doesn't meet the standards set in some of her young adult classics.-Courtney Lewis, Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School, Kingston, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Cooney continues her mastery of suspense with this story about a screw-up rich kid and bio-terrorism. Sixteen-year old Mitty cares about nothing but music and Olivia, the school's ace scholar. Mitty deliberately blows off school, until he's forced to start a paper for his biology class. He finds an old medical book and in it, an envelope containing two scabs from a 1902 smallpox epidemic. He crumbles one, and inhales the dust from it. Then Mitty begins to learn about the horrors of smallpox, and realizes that he may have exposed himself. Terrified not only of getting the disease, but also of starting another epidemic, Mitty keeps his secret until he can't escape the fact that somehow he must become a real hero. Punctuating the drama with plenty of humor, Cooney builds the suspense and keeps it going for another teen-pleaser that's hard to put down. (Fiction. 12-14)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.68(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.79(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Code Orange

By Caroline B. Cooney

Random House

Caroline B. Cooney
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0385732597

Chapter One

Chapter One

On Friday, Mr. Lynch walked around the classroom making sure everybody had written down the due date in their assignment books. Luckily, he started at the far side, giving Mitty Blake time to whisper to his best friend, "Due date for what?"

"Notes for the term paper," whispered Derek. "The one you've been working on for four weeks?"
Mitty hadn't even chosen a topic yet.

But Mr. Lynch had been teaching for years. He had encountered many Mittys. So although the paper itself didn't have to be turned in until February 18, on this coming Monday, February 2, each student in advanced biology had to submit an outline, ten pages of notes and a bibliography including four physical books.

"Books?" said Mitty, stunned. He was sure this had not been mentioned before. "Mr. Lynch, nobody uses books anymore. They're useless, especially in science. Facts change too fast."

"Books," repeated Mr. Lynch. "This is to prevent you people from doing a hundred percent of your research online."

Mitty had done zero percent anywhere, but he had certainly planned-insofar as Mitty had plans, which he didn't-to do his research online. So he said, "Mr. Lynch, an actual book is out of date before it gets printed. Anyway, a good scientist does laboratory research."

"We did laboratory research last fall, Mitty," said Mr. Lynch. "I don't recall that you threw yourself into your project. I recall that you received a passing grade only through the efforts of the rest of your team. A scientist, Mitty, has to be able to dig through the published research of others. A scientist has to grasp the background and history of things. That means books."

Mitty was willing to grasp the background and history of rock music. On a slow day, he could listen to Nirvana or Pearl Jam. But the background and history of disease?

Because that was the depressing topic of this assignment: infectious disease.

"Each of you," Mr. Lynch had said, so many weeks ago that Mitty could barely remember it, "will choose an infectious disease of plants, animals or humans. You will study the disease in history and its ancient treatments or lack of them. If the disease has a specific history for us here in New York City-for example, during the yellow fever epidemics of the 1700s, people sometimes died at the rate of three hundred per city block per day-you will cover that. Other sections of your paper: description and course of the disease, current treatments and ongoing research. Finally, if your disease has an application in bioterrorism, you will cover that also."

Even Mitty had awakened briefly to the exciting possibility of bioterrorism.

Derek of course had wanted to be an exception to the rules. "Can we research bioterrorism only? I want to do anthrax but specifically Ottilie Lundgren, the ninety-four-year-old woman who died of anthrax in 2001 when she opened her mail. She's FBI case number 184. It's impossible for me to use books. No book has been written about her yet. All my research has to be online." Derek warmed to a favorite topic. "I can solve her mystery. I believe everything is online now, every clue I need, and I can nail her murderer."
"I would be proud of you," Mr. Lynch had said, without sarcasm, "and you may focus on Ottilie Lundgren, but all that will do is make your paper longer. You still have to include everything I described and you still must have four books. Remember, class, that I too know how to use I too can pull up a title that looks useful and stick it in a bibliography without actually reading the book. I too can open up the free first chapter and find something to put in my notes. I will know if you actually read a book or if you are cheating."

Mr. Lynch was one of the few teachers who admitted that even here at St. Raphael's, a Manhattan prep school for the rich and/or brilliant (Mitty fell into the first category), there was such a thing as cheating. Other teachers skirted this possibility as if it were anthrax-laced mail.

Right away, rare cool African diseases like Ebola and Lassa fever had been chosen by eager students. Two other kids also wanted anthrax but promised not to invade Derek's territory by mentioning Ottilie Lundgren. As the days went by, people began discussing their topics with excitement, as if they were genuinely interested. One girl had been allowed to choose Immunization: does it or does it not cause autism? Mitty would get autism just thinking about that. Another girl really did pick a plant disease and was deep into corn blight. Olivia, whom Mitty adored, had chosen typhoid fever and was already so advanced in her research that she was using the library of Columbia University's medical school, because every other library in New York City was too limited. Mitty hadn't been inside any library in the city of New York.

As soon as Mr. Lynch finished ranting, Mitty slumped down in his seat. He had perfected the technique of listening to music on his iPod while a teacher talked. It was easy if he wore long sleeves. He kept the iPod in its armband and ran the cord down his arm and into his hand. Cupping the earpiece in his palm, he would rest his head on the same hand and listen to his music. His eyes stayed fixed on his teachers, who tended to be fond of him because he seemed so interested.

Mitty's main interest was music. His life plan was to become a rock concert reviewer, the world's best job, and to prepare for this career, he had to buy, listen to and memorize everything out there. He really didn't have time for term papers. He certainly didn't have time for books.
Mr. Lynch extended his hand for Mitty's assignment calendar.

Every fall, St. Raphael's handed these out.

Excerpted from Code Orange by Caroline B. Cooney Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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