A.L. Davroe's Reviews > Orleans

Orleans by Sherri L. Smith
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it was amazing

I first learned about this book when I recruited Sherri as one of my feature Friday authors. As soon as I read the premise for the book, I was intrigued and I was lucky enough to get an advance reading copy from Sherri’s promotional group.

This book is very different from what I’ve been reading lately and honestly, it’s very refreshing.

First off, let me explain the premise. Orleans takes place in a near-future where the delta region of the United States has been continuously hit by progressively stronger hurricanes over a short span of time. This leaves a huge drop in population, little time to rebuild, cripples aid programs, and causes unsanitary conditions. Thus creating the perfect storm for the development and outbreak of Delta Fever. This fever is incredibly contagious and as a result, the United States quarantines the whole of the delta region behind a massive wall.

Despite it’s best efforts to aid the region and help fight the fever, the United States eventually secedes from the affected areas because the virus is beginning to spread and the rest of the country needs to be preserved. This leaves thousands of infected people trapped behind the wall.

…Then fifty years goes by.

Over this time, the survivors behind the wall have created a tribal existence where people are not divided by race or ethnicity, but by their blood-type because the fever seems to have different affects on people of different blood-types.

This is where the story starts.

Orleans is told from the point of view of two main characters.

The first point of view is a first person account by Fen de la Guerre. Fen is sixteen and the right-hand-man to the O-Positive clan chief, Lydia. That is, until their tribe is attacked – which basically obliterates the whole tribe – and Lydia goes into premature labor. Lydia dies giving birth, leaving Fen with a newborn baby and a promise to give the baby a better life. Fen decides that the only way to give the baby a better life is to get her over the wall and into the outer United States.

The second point of view is a third person account of a twenty-something scientist named Daniel. Daniel is trying to find a cure for Delta Fever, but he’s hit a snag in his research. His solution? Go over the wall into Orleans and try to locate an MIA group of researchers who had gone into the region when the fever first hit to study it and hope that they’ve got something he can use. So Daniel dons his bio-suit and scales over the wall into hell.

From there, Daniel and Fen have to team up and rely on each other in order to get what they both want. I won’t go too far into the rest because that will give it away, but I’ll leave you with a couple of interesting impressions.

One: This book was interesting in how it jumped between the first and third person narrative.

Two: Fen both speaks and thinks in a modified dialect, so it will probably be jarring for most people when you first start reading her. However, once I got to the end of the first of her chapters, I didn’t notice it any more.

Three: The setting and development of the world of Orleans is rich and inventive. The spirit of New Orleans, the bayou, and the south are still very real despite the almost apocalypse-style setting. Anyone who has been to New Orleans will love how Sherri L. Smith weaves the familiar into the unknown. Expect to see voodoo, craw fish, and the Ursulines. :)

Four: This isn’t your standard boy meets girl story. Putting an independent teenaged girl with an almost cowardly grown man and a new born baby is an interesting combination. I wasn’t used to the age difference and kept wondering what kind of creepy feelings one would develop for the other, but there was no element of romance or love at all in this novel. I loved it all the more for that. It’s a story of survival and gritty reality. What makes it even more poignant is the addition of the baby. I’ve never read a book where a teenaged girl had to haul around a kid that wasn’t even hers. I wasn’t sure how the author was going to do it, but I found it believable and I thought that it added a very human aspect to a world and a main character that would otherwise lack it to some degree.

Five: If you cry easy, bring tissues.

So, in all. I really thought that Orleans was a unique and refreshing book for the YA crowd and I encourage everyone to check it out!
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