June 5, 2012

Life in Florida

by Edward Bloor

Paul Fisher is legally blind. However, special goggles enable him to see well enough to play goal for his middle school's soccer team. Paul doesn't remember how his eyes were damaged. His teenage brother, Erik, has been telling everyone that Paul had stared at the sun during an eclipse. This puzzles Paul since he doesn't think he was that stupid. He has other problems to deal with, anyway.

His family has just moved to Tangerine, Florida—once a citrus paradise. But the groves of trees have been burned and new housing developments placed over them. Due to environmental damage, these new areas face severe problems like constantly burning muck fires, torrential rains, and lightning strikes that sometimes kill. Meanwhile, Paul’s father pursues the Erik Fisher Football Dream, doing everything in his power to advance Erik's potential career. And Paul’s mother likes to interfere in everyone’s business. Both parents deliberately turn a blind eye to Erik's tendency towards violence and his lack of empathy for others. They pretty much ignore Paul. When part of Paul’s school falls into a sinkhole, he seizes the opportunity to attend another school in a rougher neighborhood. That school has a fierce soccer team, and Paul’s hard play gains the team’s approval. Now he's got friends who back him up no matter what.

Bloor does an excellent job of revealing each character's true nature and failings by showing how they handle incident after incident. Paul is an especially worthy protagonist. Never a victim, he bravely stands up for himself and others. With smart dialogue, exciting action, tense relationships, and ethical conundrums, Tangerine is a memorable novel and a highly worthwhile read.

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