The Orange Houses

The Orange Houses

3.8 16
by Paul Griffin

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Meet Tamika Sykes—Mik to her friends (if she had any). She’s hearing impaired and way too smart for her West Bronx high school. She copes by reading lips and selling homework answers, and looks forward to the time each day when she can be alone in her room drawing. She’s a tough girl who never gets close to anyone, until she meets Fatima, a teenage… See more details below


Meet Tamika Sykes—Mik to her friends (if she had any). She’s hearing impaired and way too smart for her West Bronx high school. She copes by reading lips and selling homework answers, and looks forward to the time each day when she can be alone in her room drawing. She’s a tough girl who never gets close to anyone, until she meets Fatima, a teenage refugee who sells newspapers on Mik’s block. Both Mik and Fatima unite in their efforts to befriend Jimmi, a homeless vet who is shunned by the rest of the community. The events that follow when these three outcasts converge will break open their close-knit community and change the lives of those living in the Orange Houses in explosive and unexpected ways.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This hard-hitting and lyrical novel opens with the apparent hanging of Jimmi Sixes, a disturbed 18-year-old veteran and street poet/junkie, back in the Bronx after his discharge from the army; the story then retraces the preceding month’s events. Stubborn 15-year-old Tamika (aka Mik), who lives in the projects called the Orange Houses, is hearing-impaired but often prefers to turn off her hearing aids and text message rather than speak. Jimmi introduces her to Fatima, an illegal refugee who has just arrived from Africa (“Her pinky and ring finger were gone. If she held up the hand, say to block a machete blade, the angle of the slash through her palm would match that of the slash crossing her cheek”), and a friendship blossoms. Fatima and Jimmi try to protect Mik from a box-cutter-wielding girl and her posse, but Jimmi ends up caught by a vigilante group. Griffin’s (Ten Mile River) prose is gorgeous and resonant, and he packs the slim novel with defeats, triumphs, rare moments of beauty and a cast of credible, skillfully drawn characters. A moving story of friendship and hope under harsh conditions. Ages 14–up. (June)
[Readers] will . . . be floored by some of the turns in this swift, tense, and powerful book., starred review
VOYA - Beth E. Andersen
Jimmi Sixes, an eighteen-year-old Iraq war veteran, is about to be hanged. He has rescued fifteen-year-old Tamika, who should stop bleeding from serious cuts, but Fatima is still in big trouble. All this action happens before page one. Is it reasonable to expect readers to keep turning the page? Absolutely. These teens inhabit the ugly underbelly of the Bronx where poverty, ignorance, and violence threaten to derail their determination to succeed. Jimmi, a drug addicted poet, is Tamika's (Mik) protector. Mik, tormented because of her hearing aids, turns them off to enjoy the quiet while pursuing her drawing. Fatima, tall, beautiful, serene, and persistently optimistic, is an illegal alien who fled an unnamed African country after a savage attack that left her tragically maimed. She teaches paper folding at the local VA and is saving to bring family members to America, while staying under the radar. The chapter headings never let the reader forget that something awful is going to happen by the end of the book—"twenty-seven days before the hanging"; "eighteen days before the hanging"; "Twenty-four minutes before the hanging"—but Griffin lures his audience with authentic dialogue, an uncompromising take on the harsh realities of ghetto life, and his characters' heroic determination to save, if not themselves, then at least each other. A rich smorgasbord of themes demands provocative classroom discussion about bullying, war, illegal immigration, and last but so not least, friendship. Reviewer: Beth E. Andersen
School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up

Consumed with fitting in, 15-year-old Tamika tries to cover her hearing aids with her hair. She wants to be pretty and secretly dreams of being liked by her friend Jimmi, an 18-year-old war veteran who's been severely damaged by his experiences, turned to drugs, and cast out by society. But things don't seem to be going her way and Tamika copes by turning off her aids and shutting out the world. This angers her mother who is working two jobs to earn enough to pay for her daughter's auditory surgery. Tamika isn't sure she wants to hear again, until she meets and befriends Fatima, a vibrant illegal immigrant from Africa who comes to her Bronx neighborhood. Filled with uncertainty, identity confusion, and fear, the three teens form a friendship. Still, they are continually socially and physically abused by gangs and one day the threats go too far, Jimmi is almost killed, and immigration deports Fatima. Tamika survives to move on, with her mother's help. Griffin serves up hard-hitting descriptions of urban life and reflective street dialogue. This poetic, yet sometimes cryptic read is about being smart, resilient, and humane in an often-unforgiving world.-Kimberly Monaghan, formerly at Vernon Area Public Library, IL

Kirkus Reviews
Three unlikely friends struggle to survive poverty's vicious cycle in the Bronx. Sexy, streetwise Mik, who has a minor hearing disability, pines after gorgeous, blitzed-out ex-soldier and artist Jimmi. The two meet the caring, illegal teen-refugee Fatima as she searches for citizenship, work and the Statue of Liberty. With their story, Griffin raises many questions about immigration laws, the education system, crime and racism. He draws appealingly believable characterizations that urban teens will both recognize and admire: Mik and her friends talk the talk and walk the walk. His plotting, however, though action-driven, has many oddly placed gaps that require lots of reading between the lines and result in a jumpy and hard-to-follow narrative. The pace picks up toward the end, though, as the three friends' lives are at stake in a near-horrific climax that involves a gun, box-cutter-wielding girls and a hanging. A deceivingly slim volume with a slow start that leads to a breathless finish. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Sales rank:
HL610L (what's this?)
File size:
0 MB
Age Range:
14 Years

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