Book: Tangerine

"Tangerine" by Edward BloorPaul Fisher sees the world from behind glasses so thick he looks like a bug-eyed alien. But he’s not so blind that he can’t see there are some very unusual things about his family’s new home in Tangerine County, Florida. Where else does a sinkhole swallow the local school, fire burn underground for years, and lightning strike at the same time every day?

With all this chaos compounded by constant harassment from his football-star brother, adjusting to life in Tangerine isn’t easy for Paul–until he joins the soccer team at his middle school. With the help of his new teammates, Paul discovers what lies beneath the surface of his strange new hometown. And he also gain the courage to face up to some secrets his family has been keeping from him for far too long.

In Tangerine, it seems, anything is possible.

With the Cinemalaya film festival done, I thought I would take a break from writing about film and go back to what I usually write about: books. Though, sadly, I’m still not finished with Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado. So instead, I picked an easier book to read: Edward Bloor’s Tangerine.

You’ve probably read the book’s back cover synopsis above. If you’re the type to skip/skim over that, I’d suggest you go back and read it again. Now, what do you think this book is about? If you think this is a book on conspiracy theories, aliens and the like, you’re wrong. But I can totally see why you would think that. When I bought the book, I thought it would be fantastical, or at the very least, suspenseful. But Tangerine is neither fantastical or suspenseful. It’s a coming-of-age book.

As a genre, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes a story a coming-of-age one. I’ve mentioned this before when I posted my reaction for I-Libings. But when I finished reading Tangerine, I knew that this was the perfect example of a coming-of-age story.

Our main character, Paul Fisher, has always been looked over–but things change when his family moves to Tangerine County. While the circumstances are the same in all the previous towns they’ve inhabited, external forces are taking Paul out of his comfort zone–and forcing him to confront things that he would’ve otherwise hidden from.

In Tangerine, we get a strong “weak” main character in Paul. He’s they every-nerd, the one always picked on, the one made fun of–even by their own siblings. But like many people, he has that one special thing that keeps him afloat–that helps him get up in the morning and choose to continue going. In Paul’s case, it’s soccer. And with the combination of his love for the game, and the sinkhole that forces him to move schools, Paul finds himself in the company of people he would never have approached if circumstances hadn’t forced him too.

I really liked how the book handled the issue of identity. I subscribe to the idea that we don’t know who we really are until a stranger makes an assessment of who they think we are. Friends who grew up with you, family members, will always repress the little things that they think isn’t so important in your relationship. We choose to remember the good things. Until a stranger points out our faults. And true, we might not like what they have to say, but there must be a reason why they said what they did when they did.

In Tangerine, Paul sees everything. But since he never talks, for fear of retribution, he never grows. And it takes a group of kids from the “bad side” of the neighborhood to show him who he can be if he wasn’t always afraid. It takes these kids to show him that his friend may not be really be a good person. And it takes these kids for him to see that his family is badly glued together by the one belief that is doing more harm than good.

Tangerine is a book about friendship, responsibilities, and knowing when to do the right thing–and the wrong thing. It may not be a fantastical book as I expected it to be–but it sure was fantastic.

I bought my copy at Fully Booked: The Block for PhP 280.

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