Thursday, April 24, 2014

Orleans by Sherri Smith. Book Review.

Okay, so I'm going to exercise some dusty, rusty brain cells and write a book review.  Reciprocal reviewing and such seems to be important in the "Indy" book publishing game, so I need to get my game-face back on where that comes in.

I'll practice with a book I just finished, called Orleans by Sherri L. Smith.   The novel was shelved locally as YA, but I honestly think it's not really a YA novel.  Perhaps my definitions of that are outdated-- thinking of Nancy Drew and Tiger Eyes (a novel, frankly, that doesn't work for my definition of YA either, come to think of it, anymore... I should probably revisit this idea at a later date.  I'm sure it has something to do with Maia's impending tween-ness and is a deep seated issue of my own).

It is a novel that one could call post-apocalyptic, but isn't really.  It's more a "post-really bad time" period. New Orleans and parts of the deep South coastal region have been decimated by a series of terrible hurricanes, disease, and are "walled" off from the rest of the country.

Our protagonist, Fen, a 20something woman, struggles with the responsibility of saving/rescuing/delivering the infant child of a friend.  There are a series of small quests and a larger quest within the story, and a few interesting twists and betrayals that I actually did not see coming.  (Well, to be fair, I saw one of them coming and missed one of them).

The novel has an interesting vibe-- rich descriptions of a New Orleans in a state of decay but still living up to some of what makes it the city it is now.  The patois/slang that the characters of the "Tribes" have developed, the experience of multi-racial groups bound together by a new "type" of living, the strength of Fen's character.  All of these are pluses, and make for a quick read.

The only thing I would probably critique would be a nit-picky detail of trying to figure out exactly how much of the South and the area are walled off.  I didn't get a good feeling for why New Orleans was singled out when so much of the South would have been also affected by the storms and disease that the author imagines.  I couldn't exactly tell if the "wall" was simply around New Orleans city limits or the entire South Gulf Coast region or what.  Some geographical grounding might have helped me, but that also could be because I'm from the area and just wanted more detail.  I really enjoyed it that the author set one of these kinds of novels in the South, and in a city that would be full of contradiction as New Orleans is ripe to be in this scenario.  She does much of it justice, I think.

Overall, an interesting read, and I highly recommend it.  I think I'll create a rating system of Dabbles:  I give it three days of dabble time.  (For how long it both held my attention and how long, in the spurts of time I find here and there to read it, it took me to read.)

I'm not sure my system is going to work because I'm not sure I can quantify it properly.  Let's just say this is a Yes book.  Go read it.  If you're a fan of dystopian Sci-Fi, gritty "almost" reality, speculative climate mysteries, YA novels like those of the Hunger Games and Divergent series, you should like this novel.

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