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Book Review

Tangerine by Edward Bloor has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Middle schooler Paul Fisher’s family has just moved to an upscale housing development in Tangerine County, Florida. Paul wears thick goggle glasses because he is legally blind. He has no memory of how he became blind. His family has always told him he looked at an eclipse without protective glasses and permanently damaged his eyes.

Paul’s dad is the new director of civil engineering for Tangerine County. The area is overrun with environmental problems, from lightning storms and bug infestations to sinkholes and muck fires that never burn out. Mom soon takes on a role with the homeowner’s association to help address these issues. No one seems to recognize that these problems are the result of extensive suburban development.

Dad’s greatest passion is Paul’s older brother, Erik, a cruel young man who is a skilled high school placekicker. Dad obsesses about Erik’s football playing and his potential scholarship opportunities. Neither parent pays much attention to Paul’s sporting activities, even though he is an excellent soccer goalie.

Paul’s first school, Lake Windsor Middle, is located in his upscale neighborhood. He makes friends with Joey, whose brother, Mike, soon dies from a lightning strike during high school football practice. Paul’s only real joy in life comes from playing soccer. But when his coach learns he has an individualized education program (IEP) for being legally blind, he says Paul isn’t allowed to play.

Shortly thereafter, a sinkhole destroys a portion of Lake Windsor Middle School. Paul feels he’s been given a second chance. He transfers to the poorer, tougher Tangerine Middle School. Many of the soccer kids, like Tino Cruz and Victor Guzman, come from farm labor families. They give Paul a hard time at first but embrace him as a team member when they realize he’s a good soccer player and not a snob.

Paul begs his mom not to set up an IEP at this school, so she complies. When Joey hears how much Paul likes Tangerine Middle School, he transfers there for a short time. Arrogant and thin-skinned, he’s unable to endure the soccer team’s teasing and returns to Lake Windsor.

Paul and his teammates begin bonding more on the soccer field. He also shows his solidarity by spending all night helping Tino and his older brother, Luis, save their fruit crop from a freeze. Luis is an industrious man who has created and cultivated a new variety of tangerine. He loves his crops, and his passion for the smell of the land rubs off on Paul.

When Tino comes to Paul’s house one afternoon, Erik and his sidekick Arthur make rude comments about kids of farm workers. Tino retaliates by telling Erik how he laughs at the embarrassing TV news replays of Erik’s football blunders. Erik hits Tino hard across the face.

Sometime later, Luis goes to Erik’s school and confronts him about hurting Tino. Erik orders Arthur to use a lead club called a blackjack on Luis. Arthur pulls out his club and hits Luis in the head. Paul witnesses the whole thing from beneath the bleachers, but he’s too afraid of his brother to say anything. Weeks later, Luis dies of an aneurysm. Paul knows the hit with the blackjack caused it.

Tino, Victor and others on Paul’s team tell him not to attend Luis’ funeral, but Paul still grieves the loss. At a tree-planting ceremony for Mike, the boy killed by lightning, Tino and Victor attack Erik and Arthur. The football coach grabs Tino and twists his arm. Paul jumps on the coach’s back to free Tino. Tino and Victor run away.

After the ceremony, Erik and Arthur confront Paul and threaten him. Paul decides he’s through being a coward. He tells Erik he’s not afraid of him and that he saw what happened with Luis. Erik and Arthur leave. Paul sees graffiti someone has spray painted on the walls of his subdivision, and a horrible memory comes flooding back to him.

Paul suddenly remembers that his blindness wasn’t caused by an eclipse, but by his brother and a friend prying open his eyes and spraying them with white spray paint. Paul rushes home to confront his parents. They cry with remorse at having lied all these years. They say they did it so he wouldn’t spend a lifetime hating his brother. He asks them if it was better that he spent his lifetime hating himself.

Paul’s parents discover Erik stole valuables from neighborhood homes that were being fumigated. They try to keep Erik out of legal trouble by saying they will get their items back if the neighbors don’t call the police. The police arrive later in search of Arthur to question him about Luis’ death. As Erik and Arthur make excuses, Paul realizes he can’t remain silent any longer. He tells the police what he saw Erik and Arthur do to Luis.

Paul is expelled from Tangerine Middle School for assaulting the football coach. He leaves feeling happy and hopeful, having gained the respect and awe of his soccer team and fellow students. He promises Tino he’ll be over to help in the tangerine groves soon, even though he has to transfer to St. Anthony’s Catholic Middle School.

The police begin investigating Erik and Arthur’s crimes. In the end, Paul looks at the memorial tree planted for Mike. He thinks about how many more trees there are in the Cruz family’s tangerine grove that will carry on Luis’ legacy.

Christian Beliefs

Paul’s parents pray at Mike’s funeral. A priest says the rosary at the service. Paul ends up attending a Catholic school when he’s forced to leave Tangerine Middle.

Other Belief Systems

The issue of environmentalism is at the core of the battle between the wealthy homeowners who want suburban development and the poorer farmers who work the land.

Authority Roles

Paul’s parents keep a horrible secret from Paul about the way he became legally blind. Paul’s father is obsessed with Erik’s football playing. Erik’s coach, supported by Dad, will not change practice times, even after a student is killed in one of the daily lightning storms. Luis is an honest man who loves his family. He develops a new kind of fruit and works hard to preserve the land.


The words butthead, h---, a---, suck and p---ed appear a few times. Erik and Arthur laugh about the “Mohawk” Mike gets when he’s hit by lightning and killed. Erik hits Tino hard in the face at Paul’s house. Paul is pretty sure his dad saw the incident, but Dad pretends he didn’t. Arthur whacks Luis in the head with a club-like weapon called a blackjack. The hit triggers an aneurysm that kills Luis. Erik and his childhood friend cause Paul’s blindness by prying his eyelids open and spraying white paint into them.


Victor mockingly asks Joey if he follows Paul around because Paul is his boyfriend.

Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments/Notes

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

10 and up




Edward Bloor






Record Label



Harcourt Inc., a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing


On Video

Year Published



ALA Best Book for Young Adults, 1998; IRA Young Adults’ Choice, 1999 and others


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