Publication Date: July 6, 2014
In Orange Blossom by Sarah Daltry, Lily and Jack have had a rough road individually and together. As Jack is preparing to go on with his life in the adult world can their relationship survive? When Jack betrays Lily in the worst way, did they ever have a chance?
Orange Blossom is a story of two post-adolescents looking for their best lives through hardship.
Lily is a young woman with a troubled relationship with her mother. Jack calls her “princess” and there’s some indication that she’s grown up in that way but has disappointed her mother who would ultimately feel it best if she were directing her daughter’s life. Jack, especially, was not on the menu for her daughter’s life and there is a sense of rebellion at first in the relationship. “I’ll never be good enough, so I’ll be inadequate with someone who knows where to touch me,” Lily seems to say. Lily’s narrative is frequently petulant and annoying and perhaps I’m too old to appreciate the insecurities she faces. Their love seems more a deep sense of lust but in the all-of-nothing-way of children which, for me, made their sexual relationship a bit off-putting. They’re so young and so many potential consequences that may have no place in fiction but from which I cannot separate myself as an adult. Lily did not have much emotional depth.
Jack, on the other hand, was very well fleshed out. He had a disturbing past that altered the way he looked at the world. In the course of the novel, he has another emotional hit that shapes him in perhaps a not so healthy and productive way. I wondered when reading Orange Blossom if Daltry perhaps conceived Jack first and viewed him as the heart of the story, and placed Lily as a foil. The author, perhaps, likes and knows Lily better than the reader will because the heart is the main male character. The sex between the characters, however, is more Lily-centric. I did wonder at one point if Daltry was banking on readers inserting themselves and the way they live into the Lily role. Look at any “shipper” site and you’ll see that’s a frequent device author’s employ (intentionally or unintentionally) in fiction.
Daltry’s handling of the issues of depression and suicide is done with a gentle hand and a realistic feel. The narrative as it relates to mental health issues has a feeling of reaching out to the reader with the intent of helping people who might be suffering similar issues. Daltry skates the edge of angst without crossing over into schmaltz or cheap emotional manipulation. Without the teenage dream relationship, Orange Blossom shines with the talent of its author’s technical skill. The roadblock to brilliance is the self-indulgent navel-gazing the characters frequently experience that seems extraneous and overly wrought.
I’ve had trouble connecting with other angst-driven novels before. I started reading “Twilight” but damaged my vision rolling my eyes at Bella Swan. The thought of reading John Green’s novels makes me feel a bit ill. I know where Alaska is and have found no fault with stars. There is a market for the hand-wringing new agers and I’m not it. If you like the new wave of young adult fiction, you might like Orange Blossom. Beware, the sex is very graphic and the subject matter overall is very adult so perhaps not a novel for your young teen.
Read an excerpt and buy Orange Blossom by Sarah Daltry on