Book Review: Orleans by Sherri L. Smith
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.
I usually don’t read dystopian and post-apocalyptic books. It’s a big genre and really popular but they’ve never been my cup of tea, as they say. Other reviewers and bloggers seem to absolutely love them but I’ve always been leery of picking them up. I think it’s because our society is just one sideways sneeze away from being just like the ruined civilizations in those books and having human nature thrust into my face in all its nasty glory like that make me uncomfortable. So, it’s understandable that I had trouble getting into Orleans by Sherri L. Smith. I’m probably not the best person to be reviewing this book, so I urge you to make your own decision on Orleans and pick it up, especially if you like dystopia but want to get away from a few of the worst YA clichés.
Things I Liked
Wow. The world building is awesome. Orleans is detailed and disturbing. It has a Lord of the Flies vibe to it. [I hated the Lord of the Flies in high school. Scary ass little book.] The entire world of the Delta felt rich and startling.
Double thumbs up for having a non-white protagonist. The whole world of Orleans and the Delta is full of diverse ethnicities and it’s awesome to see such a varied cast when most YA books have a strictly Caucasian cast or only minor characters with a non-white race. I feel cheesy and very ‘privileged middle class white person’ for saying this, but it’s awesome to see.
There is no romance. Fen and Daniel never see each other as sexual beings and thus we are spared that YA cliché. I think it’s because Fen is a teenager and Daniel is in his early 20’s. It’s hard to tell because Fen does not ‘sound’ like a teen and I initially had her pegged as older than she is, somewhere in her early 20’s. It’s hard to tell with them because Fen sounds so much older and Daniel sounds so much younger than they really are. But my point is that Fen and Daniel are never interested in each other romantically and it’s like a breath of fresh air. No star-crossed lovers here folks.
Baby Girl is not annoying. I was initially wary of having a newborn baby as such a prominent character since I really, really dislike children. Especially really young children that don’t understand what ‘shut up’ means. But, while the baby is the catalyst for the plot, she is not really active and thus not annoying.
Things I Didn’t Like
On the other hand, Baby Girl is sometimes so inactive that I forget she’s even there, even though she’s strapped to Fen chest for most of the book. In all the other reviews I’ve read for Orleans, nobody has even mentioned the baby. I find that kind of weird since she’s kind of the whole reason for the journey but I guess you can’t do a whole lot with a newborn. In Fen’s own words, ‘she eats, poops, and sleeps’ and that’s about it.
Fen’s speech pattern. It got very annoying, very fast. It would have been fine if it were just the dialogue but Fen’s part of the book is written in first person, something I’m not very fond of, and all of it is in this Southern bayou dialect that seems very cartoonish to me. It takes some patience to get used to.
I’m not fond of changing POV and it felt extra unnecessary in Orleans, especially when Fen and Daniel were in the same place. The chapters from Daniel’s point of view didn’t really add anything and I feel could have been utilized a bit better.
It’s sometimes really hard to like the characters. Fen is really cold, even with the little baby, and Daniel is kind of frustrating and self-involved. It’s hard to find aspects of the characters to connect with and care about. This makes it difficult to be invested in the characters and care about what happens to them.
The world that Smith creates is super creepy and disturbing but fascinating at the same time. The Delta is a harsh place with harsh people and explores the many different ways that humans can be horribly brutal to each other. Like I said, having human nature striped of all its rules and shiny veneer can be disturbing for some. Warnings besides, Orleans is full of action and is a wild roller coaster ride with awesome characters, really incredible world building, and a fast moving plot. You will be huddled into a ball of feelings by the end, I guarantee it. Orleans by Sherri L. Smith is a good example of the dystopia genre and possibly one of the better.