Rummanah Aasi
  I want to apologize for the sporadic posts on the blog in the last few days. The school year is wrapping up quickly with only a couple of weeks to go and I'm finding myself with less time. I did manage to sneak in a few reads, one of which is Sherri Smith's post-apocalyptic novel Orleans. My review of Orleans is based upon the advanced reader's copy I read provided by the publisher via Netgalley (Thank you!).

Description (from the Publisher): After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct… but in reality, a new primitive society has been born.
   Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader’s newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted. Fen meets Daniel, a scientist from the Outer States who has snuck into the Delta illegally. Brought together by chance, kept together by danger, Fen and Daniel navigate the wasteland of Orleans. In the end, they are each other’s last hope for survival.

Review: I've been burnt out by the dystopian novels overload. Each story and its characters are seem to blur together if you read them one after the other. Needless to say that I was a bit worried and curious when I saw that Ms. Smith is switching gears from historical fiction (I absolutely loved her book, Flygirl, which I highly recommend) to the post-apocalyptic/science fiction genre. While I had no doubts of her writing ability, I was curious how the author was going to add something new to the current big trend of YA.
  Instead of imagining a new government gone wrong, Smith takes a real past event, the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, and magnifies it into a captivating and truly frightening future for the United States. In a series of doctrines and weather reports we learn that in Orleans, six devastating hurricanes follow Katrina's path right into the heart of the crippled Gulf Coast. On the heels of the storms came the quarantine of the entire Gulf Coast region because of Delta Fever in 2020 and the government's complete abandonment of the disease-ravaged sector a mere five years later. Now in 2056, Fen de la Guerre and others like her find themselves struggling to live in a primitive society. Due to the catastrophic epidemic, many are choosing to organize themselves into tribes by blood type (some are more valuable than others and therefore higher on the social ladder) to gain a modicum of control over the spread of Delta Fever.
 The plot begins when Fen's dear friend dies while giving birth and gives Fen the responsibility to try to get the newborn over the wall to the Outer States so she might have a better life. Meanwhile, a young scientist named Daniel sneaks across the border into Orleans to further his search for a cure for the fever. Fen and Daniel become strong, if unlikely, allies. The book is written in two perspectives but they do not switch every chapter. I found the point of views completely different. Fen's voice is immediate, first person and spoken in tenacity and admired her survival skills, reading from her point of view was a bit jarring because it is written in the dialect of the Orleans tribe. Daniel's perspective is written in third person and in perfect grammar. This is a deliberate move by the author and it is very effective in watching how Fen and Daniel grow as characters. Smith waits for her readers to develop their own preconceived notions about Fen and Daniel from their appearances and their actions as they join these characters on their harrowing journey. Slowly  their back stories are revealed with nicely timed flashbacks, which either confirmed, altered, or denied our opinions of these characters. I know that my own opinions of these two characters changed many times throughout the book, especially when it comes to identifying who is the victim.
   While the plot moves at a steady pace, it really picks up when Fen and Daniel meet and we get a hint about government conspiracy. Though there are some loose ends that remain, the richly textured world-building, the complicated relationship between Fen and Daniel, as well as the constant and varied dangers they face, will hold a lot of readers interest. The book is also rich with important, powerful, and current themes such as global warming, racism, political corruption, and the complexity of human nature which would make this book a good choice for a bookclub.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is an allusion to rape and disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: The Ward by Jordana Frankel, Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony, or Article 5 by Kirsten Simmons
7 Responses
  1. Tina~ Says:

    This one sounds pretty good! Ill have to look it up and add it to the middle school list...thanks for sharing.


  2. What an interesting concept to change perspectives that drastically. This doesn't sound like my kind of book but I am still intrigued.


  3. I'm with you, I've nearly overdosed on post-apocalyptic/dystopian stories lately. But a story that has a real event like Hurricane Katrina as a starting point captures my interest more than a purely fictional devastating event ruining the country. It's wonderful that the author uses alternating POV's and flashbacks in a constructive way to develop the characters (normally flashbacks don't work for me at all). Glad you enjoyed this overall. Wonderful review, Rummanah!


  4. I don't read too many dystopians but I really like the sound of this one. It addresses themes I'm interested in and I like that you get to see through both characters' POVs. Multiple POVs can become problematic though when characters sound alike but thankfully it seems like the characters' voices remain distinct here.


  5. I actually prefer natural disasters over political oppression in my dystopias. It depends on the author, but it's true in most cases. I'm curious about how the story works with a newborn present, and I'm not overly fond dual POV, but overall, this sounds like a very interesting read.
    Great review!


  6. Sam Says:

    I love your reviews, Rummanah. They're always so helpful and concise. :) I wasn't sure about this title before, but I think I'll give it a try eventually. It's great to hear that the different points of view were distinct!


  7. Rubita Says:

    This sounds a lot more fascinating than I've previously heard. I like Dystopians a lot more when the reason behind them is well-fleshed. Neither had I realized that Smith also wrote Flygirls! I'm constantly trying to get the middle school teacher at my school to use Flygirl in her curriculum.

    But. I hate when authors write in dialect. I mean, I really hate it.


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