Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

OrleansOrleans by Sherri L. Smith
Published by: Putnam Juvenile on March 7, 2013
Genre: Dystopian, Post Apocalyptic, Science Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: NetGalley
Buy on AmazonBook Details
Rating: Did Not Finish

First came the storms.
Then came the Fever.
And the Wall.

After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct… but in reality, a new primitive society has been born.

Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader's newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted. Fen meets Daniel, a scientist from the Outer States who has snuck into the Delta illegally. Brought together by chance, kept together by danger, Fen and Daniel navigate the wasteland of Orleans. In the end, they are each other's last hope for survival.

Sherri L. Smith delivers an expertly crafted story about a fierce heroine whose powerful voice and firm determination will stay with you long after you've turned the last page.

I only read 20% of this book before deciding to not finish it. Keep that in mind while reading this review.

I have only not finished a handful of books since starting my blog, and so far I haven’t actually posted those “reviews”. I usually just post DNF reviews on Goodreads. But I’m making an exception for Orleans. I didn’t read enough of Orleans to be able to tell you whether it’s a ‘good’ book or a ‘bad’ book, but I read enough to realize that it’s not the book for me. I feel like Orleans will appeal to very specific tastes, so I think I can at least help people decide whether it’s the book for them or not, and that’s why I’m posting this review.

There were three key things that attributed to my not finishing this book:

1. Complete lack of emotion. This book is written very ‘scientifically,’ and by that I mean all facts, figures, and no emotional investment. I knew there was a problem when the main character’s best friend DIED and Fen is just like, “Okay I’ll just grab your baby now and leave.” I’m sorry.. WHAT? She didn’t shed a single tear? She didn’t even sound upset? She was so… mechanical about the whole process. If it weren’t for her colourful dialect/accent/whatever it’s called, Fen would seem very robotic. Orleans is lacking any sort of emotional streak and for some people that might work really well, but it doesn’t work for me.

2. There’s no romance. I actually had my concerns about this and checked other reviews to confirm that there is in fact no romance in this book. Again, this might totally work for some people, especially those who are sick of romance being thrown into every single YA book. But it doesn’t work for me. I tend to feel very disconnected and bored with books that have no romance. And I think books with no romance also tend to be the ones that have no emotion overall (see above).

3. The narrator was so hard for me to follow. I don’t even know the proper terminology to describe this.. but the narrator has a very heavy dialect/accent/whatever. It made it so tough for me to read this book and the person inside me who likes good grammar was cringing. Example:

They be family, all right. I can see it in they lines, the way they both be draping so lazylike in front of someone else’s fire. Brave fools, I think. And that mess run in the family.

That’s just a short little snippet, but it gives you an idea of what the ENTIRE BOOK is like (except for Daniel’s chapters). I think this was the biggest downfall for me. Literally as soon as soon as I read the first page of the book, my face just fell. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up. I was having to read and reread sentences just to make sure I understood them right. I almost don’t know how to say this without offending people who might actually talk like that, but it felt like reading a severely under-edited book with immense grammatical issues. I know that this dialect or whatever is intentional, but I’m just trying to convey how hard it was for me to read it. I hope I’m not being offensive, but man, it was tough.

I wanted to love Orlean because I thought the plot sounded awesome. I still enjoyed some of the overall world building ideas in Orleans, but I could just tell that too many other factors made this book not for me. If you read this review and the things I mentioned don’t bother you, then I would highly encourage you to give Orleans a try. I think there might be a cool story there and I really hope you enjoy it!

But, I’m most disappointed because I spent SO LONG working on the background of my graphic for Orleans and then I didn’t even get to finish it. I usually ‘prepare’ my graphics before starting the book. I get the background already and then add on my quote/text later. I literally spent over an hour working on the base for Orleans but never got to the point where I could add a quote.

Click to read more about my experience making this graphic..

All of my graphics have the same dimensions: 1000 pixels wide by 400 pixels high. This is because they go in my image slider, which is that exact dimension. But in order for this to work, I need a photo of the cover image that is at least 1000 pixels wide. Sometimes, I just can’t find one.

With Orleans, the largest one I could find was only 600 pixels wide—that’s 400 pixels too short! I could have just made a smaller graphic and put it in the review but not in the image slider. Or I could have made no graphic at all. But, damnit, I was determined! I pasted the cover photo in my 1000×400 document and stared at the white spaces. What next?

About an hour later, I managed to transform the image on the left, to the image on the right:

Obviously it’s still not perfect (*cough*the-building-on-the-left*cough*), but I managed to achieve a lot! Here are a few notes on what I did:

Orleans by Sherri L. Smith - Edited Banner With Notes
Click to Enlarge

Admittedly, I did have some help with Photoshop’s content aware fill tool, but I actually sat there and PAINTED the left side of the wall. Then I had to digitally duplicate and manipulate the tree on the right.

So, my point is, I spent freaking ages getting this background image to look presentable, and then I never even got to use it. Cue all those “self pity” feelings.

The Verdict


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  1. Ha, I read this and really liked it, but when I read your tweet I guessed what your issues would be and I was right! The book definitely lacked that emotional connection, and was very scientific. I was just way more in the mood for that since there are way too many post-apocalyptics without any worldbuilding.

    Also, I was glad there wasn’t romance, because there was NO connection between those two, but, honestly, thought it may hurt my street cred to admit this, I like romance in my books in general. Like, it’s okay from time to time, but I so understand you bouncing.

    Christina (A Reader of Fictions) recently posted: Review + Giveaway: The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow
    1. Thanks for posting your thoughts Christina! I’m sure that if you don’t mind the points I mentioned (like the lack of romance and the scientific feel) then it’s a great book! I just couldn’t get past those things and that hindered my enjoyment!

      But I’m super glad you enjoyed Orleans! 🙂

  2. I don’t have to have romance but I understand why you were frustrated at the lack of it. I do HAVE to sense some sort of human emotional connection, presuming these characters are meant to be… human. So that’s why I’m no wary of this book and won’t be rushing to get my hands on it, like I might have considered.

    Oh, and look on the bright side – you did get to use your graphic… just maybe not in the way you’d intended.

    1. Yeah I think the problem for me was that too many small things added up. If a book can pull me in in some other way, then I can live without romance.. but it has to be seriously amazing. And even if this book does have good world building, the lack of any kind of emotional connection combined with the lack of romance just lost me. 🙁

    1. Yeah I figured that you wouldn’t be fond of no emotion and no romance either! 🙁

  3. The dialect was super hard to overcome – I almost put Orleans down because of it! But I had been promised spectacular worldbuilding, and gosh darnit, I was going to get it!

    I am glad I persevered, because for me, it did end up being worth it! I don’t mind books without romance, though Orleans surprised me by having Fen grow to care for the baby she initially was going to leave for the hounds in order to buy herself time to get away. So while it wasn’t romantic, there was love, you just had to see her through to the end of her journey.

    As for Fen having no emotion, I understood it. She grew up as a survivor, doing what she needed to in order to live, so it made a lot of sense (to me) why she approached everything with a sort of clinical detachment as she worked her way through to the most logical solution. I can see how that might not work for everyone though!

    1. I’m really glad you enjoyed it Kelly! I guess it just wasn’t for me, but I’m really happy that it was able to pull you in. 🙂

    1. Yeah I’m not sure that this is your kind of book either. 🙁 I think the world building is supposed to be pretty good, but it’s lacking in all other areas.. So I think you just have to be REALLY into the world building in order for it to work for you.

  4. I can understand why an author chooses to write a character who speaks in a dialect but it really can be hard to read and follow, especially when you have to keep re-reading.

    And the lack of emotions would probably make me less likely to connect with the MC, too.

    VeganYANerds recently posted: Stacking the Shelves (46)
  5. I’m reading Orleans right now, and am having the same issues you mentioned. No emotional investment, and it’s really tough to read Fen’s POV. Maybe first-person wasn’t the way to go for those sections; Daniel’s aren’t, so why are Fen’s? =/

    I think I’ll continue on just to see how everything plays out, but yeah – big disappointment, because I was really excited for this one.

    Nikki R recently posted: Review: THE ARCHIVED
    1. Sorry to hear that you’re not enjoying it much either. 🙁 I hope it gets better for you! I have heard that the world building is great throughout the book. I hope that’s enough to hook you in! !

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