Study Guide

Joey Costello in Tangerine

By Edward Bloor

Joey Costello

Joey is Paul's first friend at Lake Windsor Middle School, and their friendship gets off to a good start. When lightening kills his brother Mike, Paul helps him through it. Paul is the one he shares his sadness with: "Joey may or may not have been listening. I don't know. Tears were pouring down his face. He tried to talk through them" (2.3.26).

But soon after, Erik taunts him about his deceased brother, which puts a definite chill in the air between them: "For Joey, our house may as well be covered with canvas and bound by ropes, because it's filled with poison" (2.9.60). Then, when he transfers to Tangerine Middle, he can't handle the ribbing that goes on there, and lashes out with racist comments. He transfers back to Lake Windsor, and he and Paul avoid each other until the memorial service held for Mike, where he starts speaking to Paul again. In the end, Joey helps Paul report Arthur and Erik to the police, and they become friends again.

Strange Fruit

You might wonder how Paul and Joey can be friendly, when Joey had such a hate-filled attitude towards Paul's Tangerine buds. First of all, let's just get this straight: Racism is never okay, no matter what.

But if you look at Joey's life up to that point, you might at least understand why he was so angry, and why he felt a need to lash out. His brother had died. People were being cruel about it at Lake Windsor, including Erik. Then he gets to a new school, and the guys there start giving him a hard time, too, calling him names and making fun of his soccer abilities. Wouldn't you be upset, too?

The problem was that Joey turned his justified anger into something ugly—racism. It's one thing to yell at a person because they're mean to you. It's another entirely to start spewing hate about an entire group of people. But guess what—by helping to get Arthur and Erik in trouble for killing Luis, the very person he had insulted, Joey is trying to make amends. We have a lot of hope for this kid.

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