This review will contain spoilers!
In many sentences:
I enjoyed Tangerine, mostly because of Paul Fisher as a character. He was courageous, loyal, intelligent, and observant. In fact, his general outlook on life and observations of the world around him reminded me a lot of Oskar Schell from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Obviously this book did not have the gravity (or should I say heavy boots?) of Extremely Loud, but Paul and Oskar shared some similarities. He's a discussion Paul had with his friend Joey about lightning that was reminiscent of Oskar: [Paul]: "They leveled everything out with bulldozers. Right? They brought in tons and tons of that white sand and dumped it here. Then they landscaped over everything." "Yeah. So what?" "So let's say that that corner house used to be the highest ground around here for miles. Maybe it was at the top of a rise with big trees on it. So that's where the lightning always used to strike." "Then it must've had big dead trees on it." "Whatever. This was the highest spot, and it worked like a lightning rod. Now, you could bring back those developers, and the construction guys, and the engineers, and ask them to point out where the highest spot around here used to be. Not one of them would know. But the lightning knows. It hits right where it's always hit. It's just that some fool has stuck a house there." I pointed back toward the front of the development, toward the four English royal models. "Who knows? Maybe someday, after all this crumbles away, the trees will be back, and these storms will make sense again" (44).
There are many great moments like this throughout the book, most I didn't even note. But in general, if this is strikes you as interesting or entertaining, I think it speaks well to the overall sense of quirkiness and entertainment this book has to offer.
Another great moment in Tangerine is when the sinkhole hits the school, and he and Joey jump into the fray, without hesitation, to save the other students stuck in the temporary building. Afterwards, he has this to say: "I'm still afraid of Erik. I'm afraid of Arthur now, too. But today I wasn't a coward, and that counts for something" (84).
As much as thoroughly enjoyed Tangerine, and I highly recommend it, I didn't think it was perfect. The biggest complaint I have is the fact that, throughout the "journal" that Paul keeps, he refers to the fact that he doesn't remember what happened to his eyes, or what the big secret is around his older brother, but alludes to the fact that he will remember it (such as by saying "yet"). This seems small, but if the structure is meant to consist of a boy's journal, then how does he know that he will eventually remember what happened? Plus, it didn't need these little hints to keep the reader engaged, so it feels like something that could easily have been cut without detracting from the work in any way.
One last comment I would like to make is in regards to Paul's father. As a book recommended, and clearly intended, for a teenager audience, I imagine most readers don't think much about the father, other than to note his behavior was less than desirable. As a father myself, however, I couldn't help but project myself onto Mr. Fisher. Obviously I despised the way he treated Paul, ignoring what Erik did to him as a child, and continuing to ignore Paul as he pursued the Erik Fisher Football Dream. What could drive a father to ignore one of his children? Could I ever do something so terrible? The fact that this book caused me to even consider these things shows how there is more to it than just a story for teenage boys.
Edward Bloor the First Line of Tangerine