THE PLOT: ‘Orangeboy’ by Patrice Lawrence is a contemporary YA novel about a teenage boy who is dragged into London’s gang-violence. 16-year-old Marlon doesn’t want to follow his brother down the wrong path. But when popular Sonya knocks on his door, nerdy Marlon finds himself tangled up with gang members and embroiled in a drugs scandal. In trouble at school, his mother doesn’t trust him and his best friend is pulling away but Marlon feels like he doesn’t have a choice. He has to uncover why a beautiful girl like Sonya chose a loser like him, and stop everyone coming after them, before it’s too late.
RATING: This book started well but felt anti-climactic so I’m giving it three stars. I was in a bit of a reading slump so I thought a fast-paced, easy-to-read YA would help sustain my interest. It worked initially as I liked the snappy dialogue, simple language and large font. However, I lost interest as each scene began to feel repetitive. For example, every conversation between Marlon and his mum, or Marlon and his best friend, had exactly the same pattern (usually in the same setting) and he didn’t seem to be learning from his mistakes throughout the novel. The endless cycle of bad choices with no character growth and no big reveals to tie everything together made this book feel a little stale and, dare I say, boring…
GOOD BITS: This is a very easy to read book that doesn’t get bogged down in description. Initially I really liked Marlon and felt his bad choices were completely believable and true to his character (I just wish he wasn’t making the same dumb decisions at the end of the book). The plot evolved nicely and different elements were tied together in a satisfying way. I really liked the characterization of Marlon’s best friend, Tish, although I kept waiting for Tish to reveal she was pretending to be with Scott Lester so she could get information for Marlon.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: I lost interest half-way, which I originally attributed to the mystery being uncovered too slowly. However, on finishing the book, there simply isn’t an overarching mystery to solve. I kept expecting a huge reveal to tie everything together but the motivation for the antagonist was very surface level and there was no deeper force at work. Also, I don’t think Marlon grows throughout the novel. Ostensibly, the plot escalates throughout. E.g., Marlon’s decision to get a knife escalates into getting a gun. But his reason for doing both of these things doesn’t evolve. There’s nothing he learns from his failure with the knife that he takes into his plan to get a gun so it feels like the same scene again and again.
OVERALL: I’d recommend this book to lovers of ‘Hello Mum’ by Bernadine Evaristo, ‘The Cost of Knowing’ by Britney Morris and ‘Concrete Rose’ by Angie Thomas. I’ll be honest, this hasn’t left me desperate to pick up Lawrence’s other books but give it a go if the blurb intrigues you.
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