Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence
Published by Hodder
Released 2nd June 2016
Sixteen year old Marlon has promised his widowed mum that he'll be good, and nothing like his gang-leader brother Andre. It's easy when you keep yourself to yourself, listening to your dead dad's Earth, Wind and Fire albums and watching sci-fi. But everything changes when Marlon's first date with the beautiful Sonya ends in tragedy; he becomes a hunted man and he has no idea why. With his dad dead and his brother helpless, Marlon has little choice but to enter Andre's old world of guns, knives and drug runs in order to uncover the truth and protect those close to him. It's time to fight to be the last man standing.
I'm going to be honest here and say that I wasn't ever expecting to read this book. My local Waterstones was running a competition on their twitter to win a proof copy of a surprise book in the Young Adult genre. Knowing I had the chance to win a proof copy of a book in my favourite genre, I jumped at the chance and entered it and to my surprise I won! When I picked the book up it was all wrapped up and it was a great surprise to open it and see Orangeboy. After reading what it was all about I had a feeling it was going to be interesting and a lot different to other books in the same genre that I read.
Marlon is a sixteen year old, living in London. He made a promise to his recently widowed Mother that he would stay out of trouble and work hard to get the best grades in his exams, unlike his brother Andre, who used to be a leader for a North London gang. Keeping himself to himself Marlon got on with life. That is until his first date with the mysterious Sonya ends in tragedy. From them on Marlon is being hunted and has no other choice but to enter Andre's old world of drugs, guns, knives and gang warfare in order to uncover the truth about Sonya and protect his loved ones.
Well, this book was definitely something I hadn't read before. I'd never read a book about UK gangs before and it was certainly an eye-opener. Despite this book being fiction it made me realise that things mentioned in the book are happening right now and its quite scary to think about. It was so realistic and you could tell that the author had done a lot of research into gang life, what goes on in gangs, policing, convictions and what damage it causes families. This was contemporary young adult fiction at it's best, in my opinion. I found myself falling deeper and deeper into the London gang underworld and I was really intrigued and interested.
As you probably already gathered there are a lot of sensitive issues that are touched upon in Orangeboy. Drugs, gangs, serious injury, gun crime and knife crime being some of them. If you are quite sensitive to these things then I'll be honest, it will upset you. However, none of these topics are glamourised in anyway and are told in a sincere, understanding way. I mean at times I was quite shocked at what was happening alongside the story line, but I was open minded and had to keep on reading.
Marlon, as a character, I'll admit I felt quite sorry for. All he wanted to do was keep himself to himself and be a good student and son and all of a sudden in the blink of an eye he was thrusted into this world that he didn't have a clue about. Yes, he did some rather stupid things throughout the story, but I think this was because he was scared and he just wanted to protect those closest to him. You could tell him was devoted to his mother, despite letting her down and although, yes she was let down she still loved him unconditionally. All characters throughout the story had their own backstories and I did like finding out about them. Interesting characters make for an interesting story.
Despite these things, I did have one gripe with the book and that is the fact that the plot took a rather long time to build and that the climax was over and done with in two chapters. Don't get me wrong I enjoy a plot building up as it does get you excited, but with this one it just fell a bit short for me. I feel like the climax should have been longer, as it got my heart racing and then suddenly it was over. It was quite anti-climatic, which was a bit of a shame.
Orangeboy, overall, was an exciting read that did keep me hooked. I enjoyed reading about something I didn't know about beforehand and I admire the amount of research that must have gone into it. Yes, the ending was somewhat anti-climatic, but I won't let that take away the fact that I really did enjoy reading this gem that I wouldn't have known about if I hadn't have won that competition.
Patrice Lawrence is of Italian-Trinidadian heritage. She writes for adults and children and has been published by A & C Black, Scholastic, Pearsons and Hamish Hamilton. Her young adult novel, Orangeboy, was released by Hodder on 2nd June 2016.