Code Orange

October 2, 2008
By Dhruv Bansal, Great Falls, VA

“Mitty had a strange feeling. He had a dry throat, hallucinations, hot flashes, and a pounding headache building up. Could it be? No. He couldn't have smallpox. That wasn't possible.”

The whole plot of Code Orange, by Caroline B. Cooney, revolves around smallpox. Smallpox is a deadly disease, with no cure. It was eradicated in 1979 after massive efforts by the World Health Organization to vaccinate everyone. However, nowadays, most people do not have the vaccine.

I picked up the book mainly because of Caroline B. Cooney. I had enjoyed books by her, such as The Voice on the Radio, before, so I was interested in this book. Also, I felt that the book was part of a relatively small genre of modern day outbreaks, so I was interested in seeing how Cooney wrote it. Finally, since I had heard the book before, I decided that I should read it.

The story starts in Connecticut, where Mitty, a typical slacking teenager, is spending his weekend. The story goes on to expand upon Mitty, with the reader learning that he comes from a rich family, hates doing work, and loves wandering around New York.

The main suspense begins when Mitty finds the envelope with the scabs. In a desperate last attempt to do his biology project, Mitty searches for some old books. He comes across one he has never seen before.

“Mitty picked up a thick book from the corner of the attic. He blew the thick layer of dust off of the cover, and gingerly opened it. The book opened up to a page marked by an envelope. Turning it over, he saw the writing on the front. ‘Scabs-VM epidemic, 1902, Boston.' Curious, he looked inside. Two scabs fell out onto his palm. Mitty looked a bit closer and felt them. The scabs suddenly crumbled, turning into a powder, and dispersing into the air.”

After this happened, Mitty went home after this, not realizing what he had gotten himself into. However, at this point, Cooney puts in an interesting twist. She starts showing the progression through the stages of smallpox in Mitty's body. For example, here is one part of the book where she does this. “It had been seven days since Mitty has been infected, and the virus started working its way to the rest of his body. As Mitty fell asleep that night, little did he know that within a few days, he would be infecting all of New York City.” This adds a lot of suspense and drama to the book, making it a much more interesting read. After this, the book goes on to show Mitty's battle with smallpox, and various people who want to get the smallpox, from terrorists to health organizations.

My favorite character was Mitty, because he developed so much over the course of the story. He was a carefree guy, son of rich parents, with ambitious plans to become a famous rock concert reviewer. He considered school to be a waste of time, and was more than happy to waste away his days listening to his iPod and playing video games. Then, at the end of the book, he became more serious, and less of a slacker. The book doesn't give much in terms of physical characteristics, but one can infer that he is pretty tall, due to references of “looking over bookshelves at the librarian” and “stretching his long torso”.

Code Orange was a book that I do not regret reading, but not one that I would suggest to others. While the beginning was extremely interesting and suspenseful, I felt that the drama dropped significantly before the climax. This left me feeling like I was just reading to get it over with, rather than reading because I was actually enjoying the book. If I could go back and choose another book I definitely would because books that suddenly get dull don't suit me at all because something has to be happening. Even to someone who hasn't read it before, I wouldn't recommend it, mainly because of the drop of suspense.

If you happen upon this book during some project or just for enjoyment, I would pass over it, unless you are someone who appreciates a book that has a conclusion of very little action. Otherwise, I believe you would be content skipping over it in favor for some other books.

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