Author: Sherri L. Smith
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: March 7, 2013
Source: Borrowed from Steph of Cuddlebuggery
Description from Goodreads:
First came the storms. Then came the Fever. And the Wall.
After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct… but in reality, a new primitive society has been born.
Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader’s newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted. Fen meets Daniel, a scientist from the Outer States who has snuck into the Delta illegally. Brought together by chance, kept together by danger, Fen and Daniel navigate the wasteland of Orleans. In the end, they are each other’s last hope for survival.
Sherri L. Smith delivers an expertly crafted story about a fierce heroine whose powerful voice and firm determination will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.
First Sentence: "After the storm deaths came other casualties: deaths by debris, cuts, tetanus, or loss of blood; suicide; heart attacks caused by stress of loss, or stress of rebuilding, or just as often from the lack of medicines used to treat common ailments."
Obviously, I really, really love dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction, otherwise I wouldn't read as much of it as I do. However, I go into this endeavor well-aware of the weaknesses of such novels. More often than not, the world building receives minor attention, taking a backseat to either mindless action or star-crossed romance. Sometimes, the author does not even offer the slightest hint of how the world evolved into its current state.
In Orleans, Smith starts the reader off with explanations, a detailing of how the Gulf coast went down the shitter, and got quarantined from the United States after a series of devastating hurricanes that resulted in an even more disastrous disease. The individuals still living in Orleans, having dropped the new as they're nothing new and shiny about this place anymore, live a very different life than the one we know. The bulk of the population lives in tribes, organized by blood type, as the disease affects the different blood types in varying strengths. Those with AB blood are most affected, but, as a result, they are most to be feared, since they will attack the other types to take their blood, which helps stave off the illness. From the very beginning, Smith starts building her world and she does not stop until the end, and, y'all, her world is creepy.
On top of the completely stellar world building, Orleans earns so much respect from me for being diverse. People of every race run around Orleans and, for the most part, skin color and heritage do not matter any more; now blood type does. The heroine, Fen de la Guerre, is dark-skinned, but, honestly, I'm not completely sure what her race is; what I do know is that she's non-white, and so are most of the people running around this book. Also, the cover matches this book perfectly, down to the way her hair's piled on top of her head.
Fen really does make a marvelous heroine, in that she looks out for herself and does whatever she needs to do to survive. In a lot of survival situations in novels, the heroine's always trying to save everyone and sacrifice herself, but that rarely strikes me as a realistic. Fen has one person she really cared about and would have died to protect, but that person dies in childbirth in the beginning, asking Fen to take care of her child. Even with this promise in place, Fen considers abandoning the baby at a couple of points to save herself. Later, when she meets a wandering scientist, Daniel, she only helps him to help herself. Her character arc does change a bit, but mostly she's a hardened warrior who has been through the worst and does not want to go back.
The downside for me was that I never felt any connection to the characters. While interesting, Fen closes herself off to everyone, including the reader. Despite her sections being told in first person, I really just didn't have a handle on who she was besides a survivor, which, while, utterly believable on the one hand, kept me from engaging completely. Though his sections were in third person, Daniel was still more approachable, but he's so useless in Orleans that I didn't feel much for him either. Also, I'm generally not a fan of multiple points of view when they're not all in either first or third person. The switches between first and third person narration, in general and here specifically, catch me off guard, especially once Daniel and Fen are in the same place.
Other factors worth noting are the writing style and the romance. For the former, be warned that Orleans is written with quite a bit of dialect, as Fen speaks and thinks that way. Her dialect, however is quite mild, mostly consisting of the use of 'be' in place of 'are.' Though I'm really not a fan of dialect, this did not bother me. To the latter point, there is no romance. None. If you like post-apocalyptics for romance, you'll want to be passing by this one. As for the rest of us, Orleans serves as a lovely break from the monotony of instalove.
Readers who have mostly given up on post-apocalyptics because you're sick of all of the sappy romances and pathetic attempts at world building, Orleans will restore just a little bit of your faith in the genre.
Favorite Quote: "'And the people,' he say. 'Lord, the people. They was black, and white, and yellow, and brown, and pink as lobsters sometimes, too, but they was beautiful. Because they could dance like the city, and sing like the city, and love like the city was loved by the sky and the sea. It was the people who made the city of New Orleans.'"