Orleans by Sherri L. Smith. ★★★
I didn’t hate Orleans, I didn’t love it, it was just okay. I will not be rereading it, and my copy will most likely get sold to a second hand bookstore.
Part of my problem was that I was in the mood for a different sort of book. So, let me say it here: Orleans is dark. It may be a YA dystopia, but it’s not the light, fluffy kind.
I should also mention here that there’s some trigger warning type stuff in the main female character, Fen’s, background. Having finished the book, I’m not sure why it was in there. To show that life in the Delta is dark and grim and terrible?
Orleans is set in New Orleans after a series of hurricanes and a new disease called the Delta Fever have ravaged the Gulf Coast. The rest of the United States gave up on the area, instituted a quarantine, and built a wall. The residents of Orleans eke out a living by sticking with their blood type, which protects them from Delta Fever. After the leader of her tribe dies during childbirth, Fen is on the run from blood hunters with the newborn child, who’s she’s determined to give a better life over the wall.
I had a few issues with the set up. First of all, I don’t think that the United States would willingly give up on a region of their country, especially one with economic value. With the mouth of the Mississippi River closed, how on earth are they shipping things? Secondly, what happened to all the other Gulf cities. They’re never mentioned, not once. Where they destroyed by rising water (when under sea level New Orleans survives?). If so, I would like for the text to specifically say that with global warming or whatever, most of the Gulf Coast was underwater.
I also thought that there would be more exploration of the blood type tribe system. Like, with everyone divided along blood type lines, is there still other sorts of prejudice? Is there racism? These are questions that Orleans specifically asks then never answers.
I would have enjoyed the characters a lot more if I actually liked or cared about them. I don’t know why Fen didn’t connect with me. She’s brave and resourceful; I should have loved her. Yet, I felt nothing at the major scene at the very end of the book. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t have any goals for her own future? Honestly, I didn’t care about the baby. It’s a baby, not an interesting character. The other main character, Daniel, never connected well with me either.
There were some good things about the book – it was much more diverse than the other YA dystopians out there, and it was the first one I’d read where there’s no romance whatsoever. In a YA book, that’s really refreshing.
Overall, this book seemed like a YA version of the movie Children of Men. It wasn’t that bleak, but there were certain similarities to be sure.
I don’t really know who I’d recommend this too. I can see people liking it more than I did, but I don’t think it would appeal to the typical YA dystopian crowd. Maybe people who like the darker, more adult dysptopians and post-apocalyptic books?