Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
When he was little, Paul stared at an eclipse too long. Or so his parents tell him. Now 12, he is legally blind. When his family moves to Florida's Tangerine County, where lightning strikes every day and toxic smoke billows through the air, Paul begins to remember something else. As buried memories surface, he uncovers the ugly truth of what his football hero brother did to him years ago. The element of suburban ecological horror here is both frightening and surreal, but it gives way in the second half of the novel to an onslaught of soccer and football games. The playing fields are symbolic arenas in which Paul's anger at his brother and his tentative friendships with a group of poor minority kids get worked out. The horrific elements, however, remain largely unresolved. The zombie Paul mentions never appears. Lightning continues to strike. A swarm of mosquitoes hovers over the housing development. Problems crop up, too, in this book's pacing, but first-novelist Bloor pulls it off, wedding athletic heroics to American gothic with a fluid touch and flair for dialogue. A sports novel that breaks the mold.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Living in surreal Tangerine County, Fla., a legally blind boy begins to uncover the ugly truth about his football-hero brother. PW praised Bloor for "wedding athletic heroics to American gothic with a fluid touch and flair for dialogue." Ages 11-up. (Sept.)
The ALAN Review - Cawood Cornelius
Tangerine is a town in Florida with problematic new housing developments, frequent lightning strikes, sinkholes, and muck fires. Seventh grader, Paul Fisher, his older brother and parents are leaving Texas for Tangerine, Florida where Paul's dad will take a job as a civil engineer. Paul, who is legally blind, enrolls at the middle school in town after his trailer classrooms at the first school are swallowed by a sinkhole. Paul, a soccer goalie, is in competition for his parents' attention with his older brother who is a football star. Football practice is not canceled even after one of the players is killed by lightning. Paul makes friends at the new school and learns some valuable lessons by working in the tangerine groves with his peers from the town school. Paul's brother's involvement in the death of his friends' uncle brings back memories of how he lost his vision. Tangerine is the first novel of Edward Bloor who taught middle and high school in Florida. It is written from Paul's point of view and rings true of the middle school experience. The unexpected plot twists keep the interest of the reader. Recommend this novel to students with an interest in soccer or students who move often.
VOYA - Brenda Moses-Allen
When Paul Fisher and his family move to Tangerine County, Florida, his life changes dramatically. Paul has lived his twelve years in the shadow of his football-playing brother, Erik. The boys' father seems to be reliving his life through Erik, steadily building the "Erik Fisher Football Dream." Unlike Erik, Paul is considered a geek by some of his classmates. He wears thick glasses to protect his eyes that were damaged when, at five years old, he looked at a solar eclipse without protective eyewear. Or so his parents and his brother have told him. Paul resists being labeled "legally blind" because he really can see. In fact, he sees more than his parents realize. Tangerine County is full of surprises. Underground fires cause Paul's neighborhood to smell of smoke and burnt rubber, and the residents accept the daily and dangerous thunderstorms as just a part of life. When a sink hole swallows the portable school buildings at Lake Windsor Middle School, Paul transfers to Tangerine Middle School, which is old and shabby-very different from Lake Windsor. He is determined to play goalie for the soccer team, but first he has to overcome his fear of the tough team captain, Victor. He also has to win the respect of the team, which includes girls, some of whom can play better than any players he has seen before. Paul gains self-confidence and makes new friends, but his loyalty to them is tested by Erik's menacing behavior. Erik's actions trigger haunting and vague memories that Paul cannot quite comprehend. This is an exciting, suspenseful, and thought-provoking book that should be a hit with soccer-playing middle schoolers. Recommended. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
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.
From the Publisher
"A richly imagined read about an underdog coming into his own."—Bulletin
• "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."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Breaks the mold."—Publishers Weekly ABA’s Pick of the Lists An ALA Best Book for Young Adults A Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book A Horn Book Fanfare Selection An IRA Young Adults’ Choice A New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
Read an Excerpt
Friday, August 18
For Mom the move from Texas to Florida was a military operation, like the many moves she had made as a child. We had our orders. We had our supplies. We had a timetable. If it had been necessary to do so, we would have driven the eight hundred miles from our old house to our new house straight through, without stopping at all. We would have refueled the Volvo while hurtling along at seventy-five miles per hour next to a moving convoy-refueling truck.
Fortunately this wasn’t necessary. Mom had calculated that we could leave at 6:00 A.M. central daylight time, stop three times at twenty minutes per stop, and still arrive at our destination at 9:00 P.M. eastern daylight time.
I guess that’s challenging if you’re the driver. It’s pretty boring if you’re just sitting there, so I slept on and off until, in the early evening, we turned off Interstate 10 somewhere in western Florida.
This scenery was not what I had expected at all, and I stared out the window, fascinated by it. We passed mile after mile of green fields overflowing with tomatoes and onions and watermelons. I suddenly had this crazy feeling like I wanted to bolt from the car and run through the fields until I couldn’t run anymore. I said to Mom, “This is Florida? This is what it looks like?”
Mom laughed. “Yeah. What did you think it looked like?”
“I don’t know. A beach with a fifty-story condo on it.”
“Well, it looks like that, too. Florida’s a huge place. We’ll be living in an area that’s more like this one. There are still a lot of farms around.”
“What do they grow? I bet they grow tangerines.”
“No. Not too many. Not anymore. This is too far north for citrus trees. Every few years they get a deep freeze that wipes them all out. Most of the citrus growers here have sold off their land to developers.”
“Yeah? And what do the developers do with it?”
“Well . . . they develop it. They plan communities with nice houses, and schools, and industrial parks. They create jobs— construction jobs, teaching jobs, civil engineering jobs— like your father’s.”
But once we got farther south and crossed into Tangerine County, we did start to see groves of citrus trees, and they were an amazing sight. They were perfect. Thousands upon thousands of trees in the red glow of sundown, perfectly shaped and perfectly aligned, vertically and horizontally, like squares in a million-square grid.
Mom pointed. “Look. Here comes the first industrial park.”
I looked up ahead and saw the highway curve off, left and right, into spiral exit ramps, like rams’ horns. Low white buildings with black windows stretched out in both directions. They were all identical.
Mom said, “There’s our exit. Right up there.”
I looked ahead another quarter mile and saw another pair of spiral ramps, but I couldn’t see much else. A fine brown dust was now blowing across the highway, drifting like snow against the shoulders and swirling up into the air.
We turned off Route 27, spiraled around the rams’ horns, and headed east. Suddenly the fine brown dirt became mixed with thick black smoke.
Mom said, “Good heavens! Look at that.”
I looked to where she was pointing, up to the left, out in a field, and my heart sank. The black smoke was pouring from a huge bonfire of trees. Citrus trees.
I said, “Why are they doing that? Why are they just burning them up?”
“To clear the land.”
“Well, why don’t they build houses out of them? Or homeless shelters? Or something?”
Mom shook her head. “I don’t think they can build with them. I don’t think those trees have any use other than for fruit.” She smiled. “You never hear people bragging that their dining-room set is solid grapefruit, do you?”
I didn’t smile back.
Mom pointed to the right and said, “There’s another one.”
Sure enough. Same size; same flames licking up the sides; same smoke billowing out. It was like a Texas football bonfire, but nobody was dancing around it, and nobody was celebrating anything.
Then, in an instant, in the blink of an eye, we crossed over from this wasteland into a place carpeted with green grass, with trees along both sides of the road and flower beds running down the middle of a median strip. We could see the roofs of big, expensive houses peeking up over the landscaping.
Mom said, “This is where the developments begin. This one is called the Manors of Coventry. Aren’t they beautiful? Ours is a little farther in.”
We went past the Villas at Versailles, which, if anything, looked even more expensive. Then we saw a high gray wall and a series of wrought-iron letters that spelled out LAKE WINDSOR DOWNS. We passed iron gates and a pond of some kind. Then we made a couple of turns and pulled into a wide driveway.
Mom announced, “This is it. This is our house.”
It was big— two stories high— and very white, with aqua trim, like a Miami Dolphins football helmet. A new wooden fence ran around both sides to the back, where it met up with that high gray wall. The wall, apparently, surrounded the entire development.
The garage door opened up with a smooth mechanical hum. Dad was standing in there with his arms open. He called out, “Perfect timing, you two. The pizzas got here five minutes ago.”
Mom and I climbed out of the car, stiff and hungry. Dad came outside, clicking the garage door closed. He put an arm around each of us and guided us toward the front, saying, “Let’s do this the right way. Huh? Let’s go in the visitors’ door.”
Dad led us through the front door into a tiled foyer two stories high. We turned to the left and passed through an enormous great room with furniture and boxes piled all around it. We ended up in an area off the kitchen that had a small, round table and four chairs. Erik was sitting in one of the chairs. He waved casually to Mom. He ignored me.
Mom waved back at him, but she was looking at the boxes stacked in the kitchen. She said to Dad, “These boxes are marked DINING ROOM.”
Dad said, “Uh-huh.”
“Uh-huh. Well, I marked DINING ROOM on them so the movers would put them in the dining room.”
“OK. Erik’ll put them over there.” He looked at me and added, “Erik and Paul.”
Mom asked, “Did the movers break anything?”
“No. They didn’t break a thing. They were real pros. Nice guys, too.”
Mom and I each grabbed a chair. Erik opened a pizza box, pulled out a slice, and started stuffing it into his mouth. Mom said, “How about waiting for the rest of us, Erik?”
He gave her a tomatoey grin. Dad passed out paper plates, napkins, and cans of soda. Once Dad sat down, the rest of us started to eat.
Copyright © 1997 by Edward Bloor