Saint John Don Bosco:

"Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?"

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Code Orange by Caroline B Cooney

What we have here is a Michael Crichton-type thriller for the teen/tween crowd. If your child likes the thriller-type genre, you have a quite-satisfying read. Or, if your child is like me and likes all kinds of genres, you’ve also scored. (but read my caution at the end).

Mitty is a high-school boy who is researching a paper on infectious disease, specifically, smallpox. In an old medical textbook, he finds an envelope that contains scabs from smallpox patients. He handles and even inhales the dust from them. He begins to wonder if he could have contracted smallpox. Then, he puts an email out on the internet that alerts the world that he might have been exposed to the pox.

Smallpox has an incubation period of 14 days; by now, Mitty is down to the last couple days, while the clock begins to tick. Does he have smallpox or not? What will he do with himself when he becomes infectious? And, of course, the terrorists find him quickly, so while we are pondering these questions with Mitty, he is also faced with his imprisonment and the personal decision to take down the terrorists the best he can just as the heroes of the Pennsylvania flight did on 9/11.

It’s a clever, engaging, plot with a well-crafted ending.

While I do not think for the young adult and maybe older tween age group that the theme of bioterrorism will be too much information, that is a serious theme, and the threat of such still exists and is quite sobering. Also, the vividly clear description of the effects of smallpox is part of this story. Even as an adult, I had not realized how horrifying this disease actually is; be aware for sensitive tweens.

There is a brief, casual, mention that one of the students doesn’t want to do his research report on venereal disease.

Mitty doesn’t trust his parents and confide in them. That’s worth talking about, but at the same time, it was necessary as a plot device to further the “thriller” aspect of the story, and Mitty has a good, close-knit family and relationship with them.

There is a discordant slip that I would have addressed during editing. When the author describes victims of smallpox, she refers to them as “these creatures that had once been human.” Of course, I get the point: their bodies no longer are recognizably human bodies. Still, no amount of disfigurement or disability, or, in the case of terrorists, evil behaviour, actually loses you your humanity. That’s God-given and intrinsic and eternal.

My greatest objection and disappointment is the one poisonous idea that is injected. Mitty runs off at one point in the book, in order to protect others from the smallpox, though they don’t know yet he may have it. After spending a night away, the FBI is checking in with his friends at the school, where the response is an off-hand, isn’t-it-cool that he had a serious hook-up with his girlfriend?

So… there is an appropriate, righteous anger toward the terrorists, but not an eye-blink over tossing our daughters (not to mention sons) into the jaws of destruction known as the sexual revolution? The day my high school daughter spends the night out acting like she’s married when she’s not, is not a day I would be trilling, “Kids will be kids.” And if that’s the acceptable societal response of high-schoolers toward sexual immorality, it’s the adults of the society who ought to be asking themselves where they've failed.

Safety Rating: Sadly, 1 Flag

See: Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Fornication: 2353


Anonymous,  July 22, 2009 at 10:56 AM  

This is an excellent book review! :) Keep up the great work! :)

Anonymous,  July 29, 2009 at 5:57 AM  

this is actually a very good book review! good job! i agree with you about that it is for kids a little older than tween.

Anonymous,  September 7, 2010 at 6:23 PM  

In in the middle of Code orange and i wasnt going to finish it but by reading this im going to finish it! But what genre is the book?!

Tween Lit Crit September 9, 2010 at 9:54 PM  

I would call it a thriller...

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