Teachers can use Edward Bloor's Tangerine to introduce journal narrative, providing both diverting variation for students with this format, as well as a lovingly detailed Florida setting and a suspenseful plot. At the same time, the novel allows ample and serious discussion on relatable issues. For instance, Paul's difficult home life, the result of parental oversight and sibling abuse, will resonate with readers familiar with some form of family conflict. Students should also be able to relate to the complex social interactions Paul experiences at his two new schools and reflect on the role of fear and teamwork in sports competitions.

In addition to the interpersonal, Tangerine also prompts discussion on several social issues. Paul's friendships with some of his new classmates are challenged by the racist rhetoric of his brother and old classmates, and the novel itself includes students of differing and complex moralities and interests from a wide range of racial backgrounds. Traditional gender roles are also challenged due to Paul's unquestioning acceptance and admiration of his female teammates, despite the usual stereotyping of sports as a masculine domain. Between these portrayals and Paul's ongoing struggle against ableism, as his visual impairment is used to ostracize him from various sports teams, Edward Bloor's Tangerine covers adolescent identity formation from a number of different facets.


Key Facts:

  • Length: 303 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 680
  • Publication Date: 1997
  • Recommended Grade Band: 6 – 8

Tangerine opens with Paul Fisher and his family moving to Tangerine, Florida to encourage the football career of Paul's dominating older brother Erik. After an unfortunate sinkhole incident, Paul chooses to transfer from Lake Windsor to Tangerine Middle, where he eagerly joins the soccer team after having been denied a spot on the football team due to his visual impairment. As he develops friendships among the diverse population of Tangerine Middle, he seeks to remember the source of his childhood blindness. Meanwhile, Erik's delinquent behavior continues to be ignored or downplayed by their parents, even as it spirals dangerously out of control, leading to tragedy, revelation, and a confrontation that leaves Paul devastated yet triumphant.

Content warning: Tangerine includes some violence, including death, assault, and injury.

Your students will love:

  • Paul's fluctuating relationships with his family, friends, and teammates
  • The new locations, exciting twists, and hidden secrets

Students may have problems with:

  • Sports jargon and lack of background knowledge of visual impairment
  • Instances of murder and sibling abuse

Objectives for Teaching Tangerine

  • Differentiate between internal and external conflict.
  • Discuss the relationship between fear and communication.
  • Provide examples of how the setting foreshadows or symbolizes the plot.
  • Offer details on how the journal narrative influences characterization and suspense.
  • Identify the role of bias, both personal and societal, in harmful interactions.
  • Analyze gender in the novel, specifically as compared to traditional gender roles.

Key Elements and Techniques

  • Characterization
  • Imagery
  • Internal and External Conflict
  • Journal Narrative
  • Setting
  • Symbolism

Themes and Motifs

Appearance vs. Reality — The setting of the story seems to be welcoming and beautiful, yet in actuality is mysterious and flawed. Blindness is also discussed at a clinical and metaphorical level, with visual impairment contrasted with self-deception and superficiality.

Related Works:

Fear — Many types of fear are illustrated, from fear of failure or being different to fear of physical assault. Fear is also experienced from both sides, as when a winning team benefits from their opponents' fear before the game can even begin.

Related Works:

Communication — Throughout the novel, characters show difficulty communicating, often due to their desire to avoid difficult truths. The protagonist uses a journal as a form of self-expression both to communicate effectively to himself and to substitute for communication with his family. In contrast, at the end of the novel, the protagonist exhibits open communication with his parents, signifying his growth as a character. The text implies that this open communication will itself contribute to his continuing personal growth.

Related Works:


  • American Library Association Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (1998)
  • Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination for Best Young Adult Novel (1998)
  • American Booksellers Association Pick of the List (1997)

External Resources

More Teacher's Guides to Literature:

See all our Teacher's Guides to Literature here.