Review: Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence

orangeboyTitle: Orangeboy
Author: Patrice Lawrence
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
UK Release Date: 2nd June 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Thriller, Mystery, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

–> Thank you to Books With Bite UK for sending me a copy of this book for review!

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

Not cool enough, not clever enough, not street enough for anyone to notice me. I was the kid people looked straight through.

NOT ANY MORE. NOT SINCE MR ORANGE.

Sixteen-year-old Marlon has made his mum a promise – he’ll never follow his big brother, Andre, down the wrong path. So far, it’s been easy, but when a date ends in tragedy, Marlon finds himself hunted. They’re after the mysterious Mr Orange, and they’re going to use Marlon to get to him. Marlon’s out of choices – can he become the person he never wanted to be, to protect everyone he loves?

When I came to read this book, I had high hopes. I’d seen it in bookshops a lot, I’d seen Patrice Lawrence speak, and I’d picked it up more than once to read the blurb, knowing that I definitely wanted to read it at some point (I even featured in my post on books published in 2016 that I’d meant to read but hadn’t!). When Books With Bite tweeted that they had some copies of this book to give to bloggers for review purposes, I eagerly contacted them, and got started with anticipation.

However, ultimately, this book wasn’t really for me. The description above, which is the one on Amazon and the Book Depository, as well as the one on the blurb, is very different from the one on Goodreads, and it really doesn’t hint at all as to what happens in the book. Central topics in the book include drugs, revenge, and violence, and I think it’s a mistake not to at least have some small mention of this in the description so that slightly younger readers know what they’re picking up. I was very surprised by the big role that drugs played in this book, and when they’re such a key part of the events of the book, I feel as if they should have been mentioned in the blurb (both for the sake of younger readers, and for giving an accurate sense of what to expect from the book!).

The main problem with this book for me was that I found it really difficult to relate to the protagonist, Marlon. His disregard for his exams, his obsession with following new leads when he wasn’t really supposed to, the way he reacted to the challenges he faced, and the way he constantly went back on his promises to his mother – it all made me feel rather distanced from him. I found it hard to understand his personality, and overall this culminated in me just really disliking him as a narrator.

However, I do have some more positive comments about the book. I think it covers a really important topic: the impact that gangs and drugs can have on a community. This is something I haven’t seen covered that much in books, and it’s definitely a topic that needs coverage. I also thought that this book was diverse – the majority of the characters were not white, as far as I’m aware, something which is rather rare in books, and it featured a character with a brain injury due to a car accident, something I don’t think I’ve read about before, so it was definitely a book I could learn from.

On the whole, I would suggest reading this book if you’re interested in tense books that centre round quite mysterious events which, to me, serve to highlight how detrimental drugs can be in a community. It’s also had a lot of positive reviews, on Goodreads and other people’s blogs, so I would recommend reading around if you’re interested in Orangeboy. However, personally it wasn’t a favourite as I generally found the characters a bit unrealistic in their decision-making and rather hard to relate to.

Here are some other reviews by bloggers who enjoyed it more than me: Fourth & Sycamore | Making Them Readers | Maia and a Little Moore

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