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Literature / Tangerine

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Tangerine is a 1997 young adult novel by Edward Bloor. His first published novel; it won several awards and has become a widely used book for assigned reading in schools.

The novel's protagonist, Paul Fisher, wears coke-bottle glasses due to an incident in his youth. The official story is that he stared too long at a solar eclipse, but Paul knows better than that. He's struggling to remember a moment from his past, related to his eyesight and his asshole brother Erik, that he can't dig up no matter how hard he tries. And if that wasn't enough, his family's move to Tangerine County, Florida, isn't going well, what with wild weather out the wazoo, such as sinkholes enveloping schools, and lightning striking the same place every single day. Can Paul deal with his football-hero brother, excel at soccer, and learn the truth about his past?


Unrelated to the 2015 Tangerine. Or a 2013 Estonian film Tangerines.

This novel contains examples of:

  • The Ace: Luis Cruz; the best tangerine farmer in Tangerine County. Erik is believed to be one by his and Paul's parents, and Antoine Thomas, the quarterback on Erik's football team, is one as well.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: Erik and Arthur react this way to Mike Costello's death, laughing and making jokes about it (i.e., they call him "Mohawk Man" due to half his hair being singed off when the bolt struck him).
  • Artistic License – Sports: One of the book's climactic moments features Paul needing to stop a last second penalty kick so that his team will tie their rival and his former team, winning the league in the process. It's a fairly uplifting idea with one small problem: it completely gets wrong the way soccer leagues are scored. See, Paul's team is undefeated whereas the other team is undefeated but has played one more game during the season; the additional game ended in a tie. The problem? According to the scoring rules for soccer leagues, the winner is the team with the most points at the end of the season, not just the highest winning percentage. Since a tie is worth one point and a win is worth three, Paul's team needs to win, not tie, in order to win the league. And to make matters worse, they could have done this if they had just had the climactic penalty kick occur with Paul's team up by one goal. But of course that would be less dramatic...
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  • Big Brother Bully: Erik is a very nasty example.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Paul's brother Erik hits Tino Cruz when he, Theresa, and Henry D. come to Paul's house for a group project, so Luis, Tino's older brother, comes to Lake Windsor High to take a shot at Erik.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Luis is this not only to his own siblings, but Henry D. mentions that most of the kids on the War Eagles soccer team owe him for rides or other help.
  • Big Brother Worship: Luis, who is idolized by his younger siblings Tino and Theresa.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The entire community, including Mr. and Mrs. Fisher, become witness to Erik and Arthur's true nature, which leads to Arthur getting arrested for murder and Erik outed as The Sociopath with Sticky Fingers, but Paul during his journey for self-respect and taking charge of his own destiny gets expelled from Tangerine Middle.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Paul eventually confronts his parents about his brother's role in blinding him. They rationalize hiding it as "keeping him from hating his brother". Paul simply asks if it was better for him to keep hating himself.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Tino and Victor get caught (and suspended) for every single little individual thing they do wrong, no matter how intentional or accidental. It's usually petty things like getting into fights and accidental vandalism. While Paul stops short of directly contrasting them to Erik and Arthur, he does comment on how his parents and the Bauers literally buy Erik and Arthur out of being prosecuted for burglary because they have enough cash to guarantee full restitution for the lost items, even if they can't recover the items themselves.
  • Doesn't Know Their Own Child: Paul demonstrates as much when he quizzes his dad about his soccer season, who gets so frustrated that he asks "How am I supposed to know that?" When he pivots to asking questions about Erik's football season, Paul's dad gets the point— he knows everything about Erik, but nothing about Paul. And he's so far in denial about Erik being a psycho, too.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Mike Costello, who dies suddenly from a lightning strike during football practice near the book's beginning.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Fishers. Erik is a total dick and likely sociopath, Mrs. Fisher is neurotic as hell and completely oblivious to Erik's bad traits, Mr. Fisher ignores Paul in favour of Erik and yet still manages to not see his bad traits, and Paul wears coke-bottle glasses.
  • Foil:
    • Paul and Erik, the former being the less prominent, more socially awkward soccer player compared to his seemingly successful and popular football player brother.
    • Paul and Joey; the two have completely contrasting relationships with their brothers. Also, while Paul adjusts relatively well to Tangerine Middle School, Joey is unable to cope with his new classmates.
    • Erik and Luis (the most prominent example in the novel).
    • Erik is foiled against several other characters' older brothers. Besides Tino's and Theresa's brother Luis, there's also Joey's brother Mike (not a star football player but not a bad one, and already accepted into a choice college in spite of it), Henry D.'s brother Wayne (impeccably polite and cheerful, as well as helpful and friendly to his younger brother and his friends), and Shandra's brother Antoine (also a star football player, but forced to break the eligibility rules in order to get the recognition he needs to capitalize on his football career and earn the same college scholarships Mr. Fisher is so set on Erik attracting).
  • Handicapped Badass: Paul once he starts playing soccer. It's part of his Character Development.
  • Implausible Deniability: Mr. and Mrs. Fisher about Erik's true nature. They end up sobbing when Paul confronts them about knowing that Erik made him legally blind. By the end of the book, they're no longer in denial.
  • Inner City School: Tangerine Middle, in stark contrast to Lake Windsor Middle. (In case you haven't figured it out yet, this book likes to contrast wildly different things).
  • I Warned You: Mrs. Fisher's parents, aka Paul's grandparents, make it quite clear that they had warned the family years ago that Erik needed either a doctor or at least a wake-up call to hurting Paul, namely by pouring paint into his eyes. Though they do admit that there is no easy solution.
  • Jerkass: Erik, full stop. Vincent and Arthur to a lesser extent.
  • Jerk Jock: Erik, though he's much more dangerous than most examples, crossing over into outright murder by the end.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Paul's friends at Tangerine are initially a bit rough around the edges (which eventually leads to Joey leaving the school), but ultimately become good friends with Paul.
  • Karma Houdini: While Arthur is arrested for the murder of Luis Cruz, Erik is left with only house arrest, although Mr. Fisher makes it clear that the justice system isn't finished with Erik.
  • Kick the Dog: Erik makes a profession out of this trope.
  • Nervous Wreck: Mrs. Fisher. Almost every scene she's in, she's worrying about something. Ironically enough, despite her constant fretting she can't seem to figure out what a douchebag Erik is.
  • Nice Guy: Paul, in stark contrast to his brother. Luis also counts.
  • The Nicknamer: Victor from the Tangerine Middle School soccer team. He's the one who dubs Paul "Fisher Man," and calls Joey "Tuna" after noticing how close he sticks to "Fisher Man." There's another boy on the team named Cesar, who he calls "Cesar Salad" up until he scores a goal. After that, "His name is Julius Cesar now, the emperor of all Rome!"
  • Only in Florida: The novel plays a lighter version of this trope, combining it with Slobs vs. Snobs. One of the subplots is about how the upper-middle-class families of the Lake Windsor Downs development keep fighting against the natural oddities of their particular corner of Florida, and how Florida just keeps fighting back: eternal fires, sink holes, lightning strikes, and mosquitoes. By the time the deep freeze comes around, they just break out the hot cocoa and fake fire logs in defeat, while the lower-class families of Tangerine are busy trying to save their orchards.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The only people who call Paul "Paul" are his family and Luis Cruz. To the Lake Windsor Middle School soccer team, he's "Mars," after their goalie got a look at his sports goggles and yelled "Yowza! It came from Mars!" His soccer team at Tangerine Middle calls him "Fisher Man," after his last name.
  • Parental Favouritism: Mr. Fisher blatantly favours Erik over Paul, due to his status as a high school football star. It bites him in the ass very badly at the ending.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Both Mr. and Mrs. Fisher have absolutely no idea Erik is such a jerk and murderer by proxy until the very end. Actually somewhat subverted, in that they knew Vincent and Erik had sprayed paint into Paul's eyes, weakening his vision, they just didn't tell him because they didn't want him to go through life hating his brother. Though one wonders if keeping it a secret from the boy really was a smart idea...
  • Shadowland: Tangerine Middle, which is basically a rougher version of Lake Windsor Middle.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Paul thinks his father saw Erik hit Tino Cruz, a boy several years younger than him, and ignored it.
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: See Only in Florida, above.
  • The Sociopath: While the word is never used to describe him in-universe, Erik definitely fits this trope. Arthur Bauer probably counts as well.
  • Stepford Smiler: Quite a few characters; notably Joey, Erik, and Paul. Erik is probably the king of this trope. The genuine people in the novel are found by exiting suburbia (achieved by Lake Windsor Middle getting sucked into a sinkhole and the kids being spread across the county) and rubbing elbows with tangerine farmers like Luis, and other "real" people.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Paul eventually develops this relationship with his Tangerine Middle School classmates.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Paul receives one near the end of the book from both the Inner City School principal and his classmates for attacking a coach, which leads to his expulsion from all public schools. Though the principal puts in a good word for him at the school where he transfers, and she makes it clear she has to follow the letter of the law. Paul also decides not to accept his fate.


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