Sunday, July 28, 2013

Orleans Ain't New, Cher

As the waters receded, New Orleans picked itself up by its bootstraps and flipped Hurricane Katrina a rude finger gesture as she tucked tail and ran. But what would happen if Katrina was only the first in a long line of increasingly more severe storms? Could our beloved N'Orleans and the surrounding delta survive? In Sherri L. Smith's Orleans, we get a terrifying glimpse of a world that we pray doesn't resemble our future. 

Fen survives in the Delta like everyone else. They have no choice. After hurricane after worsening hurricane battered the area into total submission, Delta Fever took over. Delta Fever was unstoppable and the rest of the country had no choice. They built the wall. They separated themselves from the Delta region, and left it to fend for itself. Now, decades later, inside the wall is assumed to be a wasteland with few survivors. Daniel wants to find a cure to Delta Fever, but his closest attempt only made the virus worse. Instead of giving up, he heads to Orleans to gather data that is unavailable outside the wall. 

Once inside, though, he is shocked to find a thriving, albeit bloodthirsty, way of life. Fen, a teenaged O-Pos girl lives that life well. Everyone survives better in a tribe, but when her tribe is brutally murdered and she is left with an infant from the tribes leader, she can only think of taking care of Baby. Although Daniel is a liability, he also helped her and Baby escape the Blood Farm, so she owes him. While she doesn't think she can give him want he is looking for, especially in the lawless city of Orleans, she can certainly guide him there. But there is a lot more waiting for innocent, unsuspecting kids than just Delta Fever. Orleans is full of shadows. 

This was a really interesting post-apocalyptic story. It was terrifying to see how quickly the region spiraled downwards, and how the rest of the country was totally willing to quarantine the area with Delta Fever unrelenting and incurable. I have family who lived through Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, and it was until I saw the actual destruction a hurricane can cause, I didn't truly understand what a city like New Orleans has lived through. Sandy may have caused a lot of monetary damage that crippled a lot of people, but Katrina crippled a culture. Although they bounced back, as is the nature of those fierce Cajuns, Katrina will always be a part of their culture now, for better or for worse. The idea of shutting out a whole part of the country and calling it quits was terrifying, but how far would we really go if we couldn't control a deadly virus? 

The book is a little confusing sometimes because it is told in Fen's first-person perspective with a mild dialect (perfectly readable, and easy to get used to, but a grammatically incorrect dialect nonetheless), and Daniel's third-person perfect English. The chapter heads weren't marked, so sometimes it took me a minute to realize who I was reading from. This might confuse a weaker reader, so be careful who you give the story to. Still, it is a good enough stand-alone story for any young adult reader. The virus is a little odd in how it affects different blood types in different ways (hence the blood typed tribes), but if you just went with the story, you would certainly enjoy it. I look forward to more from Smith int he future!

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