We all know the kind of books we like to read, and it is very easy, given the boom in children’s publishing in recent years, to stick to the kind of things we know we will enjoy. This, however, is a shame, when there are so many new genres, themes and novelists out there waiting to be discovered. As an Amazon Vine reviewer, I get offered all kinds of things to review, and quite often I will pick something that challenges me, rather than something safe, because I hope I will be amazed by something new, something that shakes me out of my tried and tested rut.
Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence was exactly this sort of book. It didn’t tick any of my boxes in terms of what I would choose to read, but I was intrigued enough by the synopsis to order it and take a chance on it.
I’m so glad I did. I loved this book. It was beautifully written, absolutely gripping and compelled me to the very last page. I read it in one, twenty four hour period and was irritated when I had to put it down to get on with real life.
The book tells the story of Marlon Sunday, a sixteen year geek, who at the beginning of the book feels like all his birthdays have come at once when he is asked out by the girl of his dreams. Marlon can’t quite believe his luck, and he is absolutely right not to, when things go hideously wrong a few hours into his first and only date.
Marlon’s life goes into free fall, and we are absorbed into the complexities of his young life as he struggles to make sense of things and pick a way forward that seems right to him. Marlon is faced with horrible choices, and his courage is immense in the face of the dilemmas he comes up against.
The wider issues in the book deal with gang life in London, racial divisions in communities, a lack of faith in authority to deal with issues that affect people viscerally and how generations of feuding can rip apart the hope and futures of young people who would rather not get involved, but see no other way out.
The book pulls no punches. It’s not an easy read, but it is immensely satisfying, clever and really powerful. Highly recommended for teens, both boys and girls.