There are plenty of people in the world who can't hear well, and that's the case for Mik, a fifteen-year-old girl who lives in the Bronx, NYC. She lost her hearing when she was a kid, and ever since, she's had to rely on outdated hearing aids that give her ear infections and muffled sound at best.
The worst part, though, is how lonely this leaves her—kids at school are pretty ruthless about her difference.
Enter Fatima, a sixteen-year-old African refugee obsessed with the Statue of Liberty. The two outcasts become fast friends, and though they have to deal with way more than their fair share of obstacles along the way, the connection they forge is about as sturdy as they come.
The Orange Houses was published in 2009, and has won author Paul Griffin a slew of awards, including the ALA Top 10 Best Books Young Adults. The book's honest and brutal portrayal of social injustice has lead critics and fans to hail the bestseller as a masterpiece. Unafraid of the gritty side, Griffin takes a hard look at big issues like immigration, drugs, war, and disability.
But if all this heavy stuff has you running for the hills, hold up: The Orange Houses is also incredibly warm and relatable. No, really. We might not understand what it's like to be in Mik or Fatima's shoes, but we definitely appreciate their friendship. So no matter where you fall on the hearing spectrum, and no matter when you or your family arrived in this country, chances are decent there's something for you tucked within these pages.
Nowadays, it's easy to find ourselves complaining about tiny problems—think: no whip on your frap—but in The Orange Houses, the characters have to deal with hardcore injustices.
Fatima is from a war-torn country, makes her way to America all by herself, and then she's deported because someone wants to make a quick buck. Jimmi sees a kid blown up in front of him and learns that his own child died while he was away. And Mik? Well, she lost her hearing as a kid and has to deal with out-of-date hearing aids, as well as being mocked by kids at school.
If none of these problems are relatable for you, then this book just might make you think twice about complaining about that Starbucks order gone terribly awry. And if these problems are relatable for you, then get ready to see yourself reflected back on the page. Goodness knows you've earned it.
Meet the Author
Griffin's own website with all the dish about his latest projects.
ASL for Everyone
Want to try your hand at sign language? This site has all sorts of freebies to get your started.
The author sits down with Emma Kate for an exclusive interview.
We're not saying Griffin was hurt in the interrogation room, but he definitely spills his secrets here.
Griffin talks to youngsters about his books in a workshop-meets-reading atmosphere.
The author chats about his books and what it's like to be a writer with some lucky kids.
A fan-made trailer for the book.
This pic shows the type of place Mik lives.
Home Sweet Home
Mik's hometown of Bronx, NYC.
We'll let you judge this book by its cover.