Study Guide

Tangerine Quotes

  • Family

    As usual when Erik appears, the attention switched from me to him. (1.3.24)

    Hmmm…we wonder if this is because of his parents, or because of Erik himself? Is this a case of parents favoring a kid, of a kid just sucking up all the attention?

    Dad […] was halfway out the door, and he did not look happy. He was lecturing Mom. (1.4.3)

    Wow, great example to set for the kiddos! These boys are definitely going to grow up into good marriage material. Not.

    So there I sat […]—Erik Fisher's younger brother, Eclipse Boy, visually impaired and totally incapable of following in his brother's footsteps. (1.6.11)

    But would Paul even want to follow in mean ol' Erik's footsteps? He hates football; he's not a psychopath; and, oh yeah, he's his own person. It looks like families can stifle individuality.

    My grandparents are Mom's parents. Dad's parents died when he was young. […] Dad never talks about them. It's like they never existed. Mom doesn't talk much about hers, either. (1.8.4-5)

    Mom and Dad had better be careful, because they're teaching Erik and Paul how to treat them by the way they treat their own parents. Hello, out-of-the-way nursing home!

    Mom and Dad are at each other's throats arguing about all of this. (1.11.5)

    Again, setting a great example for the kids. Although—at least Mr. and Mrs. talk to each other, instead of just threatening violence while holding baseball bats. So, maybe Erik should pay a little more attention to the example they're setting.

    What if Erik was the body at the undertaker's now? How would I feel about that? I would feel relieved. I would feel safer. (1.11.9-10)

    Is Erik really that bad? So bad that his own brother is justified in wishing for his death? Yikes! Talk about dysfunction. You're supposed to feel safe with your family, not at risk.

    But that's Dad. You're either at the center of his world, or you're nowhere. There is no in-between. (1.19.10)

    Basically, Mr. Fisher doesn't know how to share. He only has enough attention for one person at a time, and that person is Erik—because Erik is just like him. Frankly, Paul, with a Dad like this, we think you're better off being ignored.

    Joey let the sorrow pump out of him […] "I saw Mike lying there. […] I had to do something for him, somehow. Mike always felt better when he got his shoes off […] And that's all I was trying to do." (2.3.26)

    Joey may not be our favorite character, but he's got a good side. For one, he seems to really love his brother. We can't think of one single time when either Erik or Paul tried to do something thoughtful for each other. Can you?

    The four of us got up and went our separate ways—me up to my room. (2.6.43)

    It's one thing to be so busy that you can't always spend time together, or to have separate interests that keep you apart sometimes. But not even wanting to hang out together? Ever? No Family Home Evenings? No Monopoly in front of the fire? That's pretty sad.

    Luis looked away. Tino was staring at him with reverence, with no trace of the hard-guy face he usually carries around. (2.16.29)

    Talk about brotherly love—this is almost crossing over into brotherly worship. If only Paul could even like his brother, much less respect or admire him.

  • Lies and Deceit

    But I can see. I can see everything. I can see things that Mom and Dad can't. Or won't. (Prologue.1.25)

    Is everything that Paul sees the truth, though? Those are some pretty thick glasses. How can we be sure that Paul's vision is clear?

    Erik was as phony as he needed to be. (1.3.39)

    And Paul is as computery as he needs to be. Ha! See what we did there? But… think about it. Why is Erik being phony? Who is the real Erik?

    [He should be] fired for what, Dad? For telling us the truth? For telling us something that you didn't know? (1.4.6)

    Hmmm…who else do we know that gets this mad when someone shows him up? Erik, maybe? We're thinking there's a family resemblance in how well Mr. Fisher and Erik deal with the truth. (Not well.)

    But of course [Mom] will never tell me about it. Just like she would never have told Grandmom and Grandpop about hating any of those moves of her childhood. (1.4.10)

    There's a lot of repression of all kinds going on in the Fisher fam. The question is, do they not talk because of the way they are, or are they the way they are because they don't talk? Tricky.

    Erik was telling his friends this story: The reason for the Coke-bottle glasses on my eyes was that I had stared at the sun, unprotected, during that eclipse. The story puzzles me then, and it puzzles me now. Puzzled or not, I went right along with the story. (1.6.8-10)

    It's weird that Paul did go along with the story, when he clearly knows that there's something off about it. Did he still trust his brother to tell the truth at that point? Or does he not trust his own memory?

    But if that's the truth, if that really happened, why can't I remember it? (1.6.54)

    Does someone have to remember something for it to be true? If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Have we blown your mind yet? Because we could keep going.

    Why couldn't I tell my own parents about Erik? What was wrong with me? What was wrong with all of us? (3.2.2)

    Sorry, buddy: there's a lot wrong with you, and the fact that you can't tell your parents that you know Erik's a psychopath is only one part of it. The good news is, you'll be doing a lot better by the end of the novel.

    There's no big mystery here. The truth about Luis is obvious to all of the people around him. Their lives are not made up of bits and pieces and versions of the truth. They don't live that way. They know what really happened. Period. Why would that seem so mysterious to me? (3.7.17)

    If you grow up with certain things, you tend to think they're normal. Like if you grow up with sea monkeys as parents, then you don't understand why people don't like having little underwater fishy treats thrown at them.

    "They're lying to you. They're telling you a story just so they can keep you scared" (3.7.24)

    First of all, mean. Don't scare the 5-year-old. Second, it sounds more like Paul's talking to himself. (Dude, that's what the journal is for.)

    Antoine said quietly, "It's time to start telling the truth, little brother. Do you understand what I'm saying? […] The truth shall set you free" (3.10.44-45)

    Right. Unless you're the one who committed the crime. In which case, you get locked up. But we think Antoine is probably talking about having a clean conscience here.

  • Fear

    I've always been afraid of Erik. Now I get to be afraid of Erik and Arthur. (1.7.13)

    Arthur hasn't even done anything yet—is Paul going a bit overboard here? Or is this well-earned fear by association?

    I remembered the face of The Boy Who Never Grew, the face of that eighty-nine-year-old little boy. I remembered the fear in his eyes. I know that fear. It's my fear. (1.15.61)

    Is Paul the real "freak" in this story? He seems to be identifying himself with the circus performer, but we're thinking that Paul is actually the only one who comes across as relatively normal—besides the Cruzes, of course.

    I'm still afraid of Erik. I'm afraid of Arthur now, too. But today I wasn't a coward, and that counts for something. (1.17.14)

    Paul says this right after he helps save kids from the sinkhole, so, yeah, he's been pretty brave. But what exactly does bravery count for? Can you be brave and cowardly at the same time? And why is it so important for Paul to think of himself as brave?

    "You're a gutless wonder, Fisher. You're scared of girls. You're afraid of your own brother. Now you're afraid of these lowlifes. They treat you like a dog, and you take it!" (2.12.39)

    Here's the thing: Joey calls Paul a coward for not standing up to the kids at Tangerine. But maybe Paul is actually the brave one, because he's the one who's confident enough to make friends and accept people on their own terms. That sounds a lot braver than fleeing back to your old school just because people are different in the new one.

    There is fear in their eyes when we come charging off our bus. […] They are beaten by their own fear before the game even begins. This is a feeling I've never known before. Anyway, I have never known it from this side of the fear. (2.15.7)

    He may be able to win soccer games, but Paul is beaten by his own fear before each day begins. Should have had those Wheaties!

    I started to feel sick. […] I could feel the blood draining out of my head. […] Theresa said […], "Are you OK?" I just stared back at her, paralyzed with fear. (2.1.7-9)

    Paul is so scared that other people notice his physical reaction. Has his fear gotten worse and worse because he has never stood up for himself? Or because he's starting to understand what Erik is actually capable of doing?

    When I finally looked right into [Erik's] eyes, I was surprised by what I saw. It was not hatred, or even anger. It was more like sorrow. Or fear. (2.1.22)

    This is one of the weirdest parts of the book. Does Erik have a soul after all? Is he afraid of his brother, or of what his brother knows? If so, this is the only glimpse we ever catch of it.

    I understood that I was supposed to be terrified by this spectacle—these two demonic creatures on this dark, lonely road. But for once in my life, I wasn't. (3.9.57)

    Here, Paul looks at Erik and Arthur approaching him with metal baseball bats. We're honestly not sure why he's not scared, because this seems like the perfect moment for a little healthy fear. But he's not—even though he knows that Arthur, at least, means business.

    "I saw him do it. I saw Arthur Bauer sneak up on Luis Cruz, like a coward, and hit him on the side of the head" (3.12.51)

    How the tables have turned. Now Paul realizes the truth: it's Erik and Arthur, and people like them, who are the cowards—not him. The brave are the ones who speak the truth, not the ones who hide from it.

    "No fear, Mom. Show them no fear" (3.13.60)

    Hm, maybe Paul's parents can learn something from him yet. He sure hasn't learned anything from them—nothing good, anyway.

  • Identity

    He seems a pretty decent guy, for a football player. But who knows? He's bound to change, in one way or another, once he gets caught up inside the Erik Fisher Football Dream. (1.3.40)

    Paul's the one who came up with that phrase. Does that tell you more about Erik, Mr. Fisher, or Paul?

    Erik's arrival is going to change the football season at Lake Windsor High School. […] So what about me? Will I make the difference between winning and losing for the middle school's soccer team? (1.4.1)

    Here's the thing: Paul isn't asking if he'll help the team win. He's asking if he'll make the difference. In other words—he thinks he might just help them lose. It's looking too good for Paul's self-confidence.

    "Are you a soccer fan?" "I'm a soccer player," I corrected her. (1.4.45)

    Oh, he's a player! Did anyone tell Kerri? Okay, sorry…

    "I went right along with the story. I even told it myself. It gave me a special kindergarten identity. […] I was living proof that you shouldn't look at an eclipse or you'll go blind. (1.6.10)

    Paul has a fake identity, like Superman and Clark Kent. The disguise even involves glasses. (Except, not as cool.) But here's our question: how did Paul know the story was fake?

    "I'm not a water boy, Dad. I'm not a team manager. I'm a player" (1.13.39)

    The one thing that Paul knows about himself is how good he is at soccer. That part of his identity he's got down pat—but his dad keeps trying to take it away from him.

    I could stop trying to be what everyone else is and accept being a freak. They could open a new exhibit, starring me. […] Eclipse Boy, studied by the greatest doctors in Europe but still a mystery to this day. (1.15.62)

    Okay, becoming this kind of star would not be helpful. Here, Paul imagines his identity as defined by his difference. He's not a fully rounded person; he's just a defect. (Or what he sees as a defect.)

    I'm not saying I was a hero. All I did was slide around in the mud and try to pull people up. But I didn't panic and run, either. (1.17.14)

    Why does Paul diminish his role in helping? Is he's so down on himself that he can't even be proud of himself when he does something great, or is he actually showing what a good, normal guy he is?

    Kerri Gardner knows about my glasses, but she doesn't think there's anything wrong with me. (2.8.58)

    It sounds like Paul thinks his glasses are the cause of what's wrong with him. Are they? Is anything actually wrong with Paul, or has Erik just convinced him of that?

    "Am I such a stupid idiot fool that I stared at a solar eclipse for an hour and blinded myself? Is that who I am? Am I that idiot?" (3.9.95)

    Paul knows he's not. And his parents know he's not. And now they know he knows. And he knows they know he knows. But do they know he knows they know he knows?

    "They know a bad dude when they see one" (3.13.66)

    Paul has gone from being chased by zombies to chasing them away: now that is what we call character development. And a satisfying ending.

  • Prejudice

    The kid in gray checked out my goggles and said, "Yow! It came from Mars!" (1.9.27)

    The kid in gray never gets a name throughout the story. He's always the kid in gray. Does he represent something? A certain type of person, maybe?

    "I'm sorry, but there's no way we can justify putting a visually handicapped student in the goal, of all places, where he could get his head kicked in"

    The way school districts deal with disabilities is worth a look. Are they worried for Paul's safety—or are they just worried about a lawsuit? The Lake Windsor coach sure seems pretty concerned about winning the game when he threatens to get Paul kicked out.

    "[The carnival] is low-rent, but it's cool, in a low-rent kind of a way" (1.14.43)

    "Slumming it" can be cool for Lake Windsor kids—for a little while, just as long as everyone knows they don't actually belong there.

    We passed a cluster of lime green houses made out of cement block. I said, "Check out that color, Mom. You'd better notify the Architectural Committee" Mom was not amused. "This isn't a development, Paul" (1.15.18-19)

    Remember Mrs. Fisher's obsession with appearances? Well, she doesn't seem to care how things look outside of her own development. Those poor people can paint their houses whatever hideous color they want.

    "Don't talk to them, and don't look at them. […] They have gangs in Tangerine Middle School. They have kids with guns, man. Real gangstas. Some of them have AK-47s" (1.15.40)

    Um, yeah. They probably don't have AK-47s at their middle school. Just sayin'. This is a pretty common stereotype—a tough school must have weapons on campus, right? And sure, they're a little tough—but not AK-47 tough. It's kids from Lake Windsor who end up being the violent ones.

    I'd say the most obvious difference between my old school and my new one is this: At Tangerine Middle, the minorities are the majority. I have no problem with that. I've always felt like a minority because of my eyes. (2.1.51)

    Paul fits in at Tangerine Middle because he's always felt different. He's been a minority at his school and a minority in his own house. So we're guessing it feels pretty good for him to feel like he finally fits in.

    "This place is like darkest Africa. Like the Amazon jungle. Like we're learning to live among the natives here" (2.11.31)

    Not too cool, Joey. He's looking for the most hurtful words he can say at this moment, and he sure comes up with some. But why? Why is racism his first line of defense?

    I took in the ugliness of Joey's words, and I saw, for the first time, how different he was from me. (2.11.32)

    This is weird, because Joey and Paul are actually really similar. Why is there this one big difference? Is it just because of Paul's glasses? Or is Joey just a bad person?

    "What? Do you think [Theresa] is good-looking? […] Then you've been here too long" (2.12.10-12)

    Joey's at it again (and by "it" be mean being a racist jerk). But this time, he's not angry. He's just being himself. So we can't really give him a pass this time. Sorry, Joe.

    It was strange. […] I was driving past the sights that made up my ride to and from school, every day. But today I looked at them through the hostile eyes of a War Eagle. (2.20.12)

    So, prejudice can go both ways. Is theirs just because of the way they're treated by the people who live in Lake Windsor, though? If they have a reason to be judgmental, then we're not sure that's really prejudice.

  • Man and the Natural World

    The black smoke was pouring from a huge bonfire of trees. Citrus trees. […] "I don't think they can build with them. I don't think those trees have any use other than fruit. […] You never hear anyone bragging that their dining-room set is solid grapefruit, do you?" (1.1.19-23)

    As if fruit is not a useful thing. Or photosynthesis. Lake Windsor folks only see a use for natural things that can be used for building stuff.

    "I'll bet the people who used to live here, the people who grew the tangerines, were really happy with this weather. That's why they were here, right? To grow tangerines?" (1.5. 28)

    Paul sees that the weather isn't picking on them—it's just doing what it's always done. It's the people who have changed. (There goes Paul again, seeing better than anyone else despite his thick glasses.)

    "The lightning knows. It hits right where it's always hit. It's just that some fool has stuck a house there" (1.8.39)

    That's why the Cruz family left their lightning trees up. They understand that you have to work with nature, 'cause nature sure ain't gonna work with you.

    "More people are killed by lightning in Tangerine County per year than in any other county in America" (1.12.15)

    It's not exactly ironic that lightening kills all these people, but it's definitely something. Maybe cosmically just? They're trying to tame nature and they just end up making it angrier.

    The ospreys don't have to smell the muck fire. And their streets don't get flooded every time it rains. I wondered if their nests ever got hit by lightning. (1.14.5)

    Well, do the ospreys mess with nature? Do they cut down trees? Light bonfires? Build middle schools on top of bad ground? We didn't think so. And they're probably safe from lightning.

    "It's a sinkhole! It's opening up under the field!" (1.16.43)

    (1) This is way more articulate than our probable reaction to a sinkhole opening up near our classroom; (2) it's major payback time for this community. They're getting a quick, nearly fatal lesson in why you can't just bulldoze your buildings into wherever you want.

    "Not that your brother and his new type of banana aren't fascinating" (2.13.35)

    Come on, Joey, really? Growing food is just a little bit important, you know, for our survival and stuff. But that's the Lake Windsor attitude—until it's in the Whole Foods, they don't' want to know about it.

    Your koi are a gourmet meal for the ospreys out on Route 89. (2.13.25)

    Hee-hee. Ospreys eating gourmet meals. In little bird tuxedos. Oh, yeah, and this is what happens to invasive, non-native species: they become sushi. Also, morbidly, they become lightening victims.

    "(T)he muck fire is still burning, and now we have swarms of mosquitoes breeding in the swamp that we created out there" (2.13.29)

    This is what we call a cascade of interventions: trying to fix something just breaks more things, and pretty soon you've swallowed a horse.

    "But you can't stop 'em from eatin' wood any more than you can stop that muck fire from burning or them mosquitoes from suckin' blood" (2.14.63)

    …but people from the rural areas of Tangerine have the true wisdom. Like Yoda. One quick thought: we're a little afraid that this is some kind of reverse racism, like Paul has to go to the "primitive" people to learn some valuable truth about himself . But we'll let it slide for now.

  • Memory and the Past

    An old familiar feeling came over me, like I had forgotten something. What was it? What did I need to remember? (Prologue. 1.10)

    Paul knows that he's forgotten something—but he can't remember what it is. Maybe that's why he accepts the story he's been told about the eclipse.

    "You're remembering all the good times you had here, aren't you?" (Prologue.1.27)

    Um, hello, what family are you from, Mrs. Fisher? Good times? This is a pretty leading question—and we're not sure that Paul can even come up with one good time.

    I expected to hear something about Mike over the loudspeaker, but the only announcement they read was about reduced tickets to a carnival. […] No "Pray for Mike Costello" (1.11.3)

    Any normal school would have grief counselors on hand, and encourage students to talk about the death. But not Lake Windsor. Would Tangerine Middle School?

    Look, we can't even deal with not remember where we put our keys—and Paul is struggling to cope with missing an entire chunk of his childhood. To make it worse, he knows that his brother has something to do with it. No wonder the guy is messed up.

    Look, we can't even deal with not remember where we put our keys—and Paul is struggling to cope with missing an entire chunk of his childhood. To make it worse, he knows that his brother has something to do with it. No wonder the guy is messed up.

    I'm not going to dwell on this. I'm just going to say it and get on with my life. (1.13.1)

    That's the thing about Paul—he is definitely a trooper. But he's not being quite honest with himself, because the definition of keeping a journal is dwelling on things.

    But it was also comforting to hear that something around here has a history. That something actually belongs here. (1.15.24)

    So things with a history, with a memory, belong somewhere. Maybe Paul's amnesia makes him feel like he doesn't belong anywhere—and maybe recovering his memory tell us that he's finally found a place to fit in.

    Erik can't laugh this off. Erik can't leave this humiliation behind him. (2.6.44)

    Erik is the opposite of Paul. It's not that he can't remember—it's that he refuses to forget. So amnesia might be back, but so is holding a grudge.

    Did [Betty Bright] mind this painful memory being plastered across the front page of the newspaper? Did she mind having to relive that punch in the eye? (2.19.5)

    This is kind of Paul. But we suspect that he's really thinking about his own situation. Does he really want to relive his 'own punch in the eye?'

    Somewhere around that time, so they say, there was an eclipse of the sun. I didn't remember that. But I remembered all the rest. (3.9.90)

    Check out the "so they say." That tells you all you need to right there: Paul doesn't believe it. He's going along with the story, but he knows perfectly well that there's more to it.

    Mom and Dad looked at each other. There was no question about it. They remembered. (3.9.92)

    We have to ask: did Mr. and Mrs. Fisher ever forget, even for a moment? And do they feel guilty at all?

  • Society and Class

    Lake Windsor Downs offers four choices to homebuyers, each named after a British royal family. […] Mom absolutely loves that. […] Mom will soon be describing people like this: "They're the two-story Lancaster with the teal trim" (1.3.6)

    Mrs. Fisher actually identifies people by the house they have—how much more materialistic can you get? (Not much.)

    There's a fancy little guardhouse on the island, like something the kings and queens in history would have built to keep out the serfs, or the Vandals, or whoever.[…] It's empty inside, but I cold see a dirty ashtray and a wastebasket full of soda cans. (1.3.8)

    Symbol alert: the guardhouse is fancy on the outside, but trashy and empty on the inside. Just like the people of Lake Windsor Downs.

    It occurred to me that I've never lived in a development that was finished. I have always lived with overflowing construction Dumpsters and portable toilets sitting on boards. (1.6.1)

    And Mrs. Fisher likes it that way. Why would she think it's better to live somewhere like that, than to live in an established, older neighborhood, without the Port-a-Potties? We'd think that Port-a-Potties would really bring down the tone.

    "Paul, I'm talking as someone who never, ever lived in a nice house growing up. Or even anywhere near a nice house" (1.8.13)

    Mrs. Fisher is trying to compensate for a poor childhood, but she's not doing a great job of it. (She'd probably be better off actually paying attention to how her sons feel.) Why do you think other people live in Lake Windsor Downs?

    "You seem to want to make this a rich-versus-poor or a have-versus-have-not issue, right? But a bolt of lightning is not aware of a kids' parents' income when it hits him" (1.12.20)

    True. Unless the reason it hits the kid is because it's attracted to all the coins in his pocket. Seriously, though, do you really think Mrs. Fisher cares about the poor kids?

    The citrus packers walked from those lime green cement-block houses into that packing plant—that huge and magnificent structure. (1.15.25)

    So it's old and maybe a little tacky-looking. So what? It was built to last. And notice that no natural disaster has knocked it down, in all the years it's been there. Now that's what we're looking for in a house.

    "Low-rent" was a compliment for this thing. (1.15.27)

    And yet, the Lake Windsor kids still had fun at that carnival in Tangerine. But to preserve their coolness, they still have to diss it. They wouldn't want anyone thinking they actually belonged there.

    Wayne wouldn't say it, he was too polite, but I knew what he was thinking: How come you're not back at Lake Windsor Downs with the rest of them, complaining about the mosquitoes, and the termites, and the muck fire? (3.3.55)

    Complaining might work with a neighbor, but if you complain to Mother Nature, and threaten to tell the HOA about her, she's not going to listen. The only thing she listens to is hard work.

    They agreed, reluctantly, to give Erik and Arthur that second chance. The second chance you get when your parents can guarantee full restitution. (3.12.40)

    Lake Windsor kids can get away with more, so their crimes are worse. So what if the Tangerine guys kicked a statue at a carnival? These guys steal and murder, and yet it's the Tangerine kids who get thrown in jail.

    "I guess I figured you'd all be looking down your noses at us. And some of those kids were. But not you" (3.13.30)

    Theresa sees that Paul is not like Joey or Erik, because he hasn't let his family's social class affect the way he sees the world. Why is that? (We're thinking is has something to do with his glasses.)