Caroline Cooney has written a lot of adolescent fiction books over the years. Many of my former students have enjoy The Face on the Milk Carton, and Whatever Happened to Janie . These became so popular that movies were made from them. Despite their popularity, my favorite Cooney book is Code Orange. Published in 2005 Code Orange pairs a realistic character with a typical teenage conflict. The conflict escalates into a very unusual series of events, which makes for a very adventurous and suspenseful story.
Mitty Blake is the protagonist in Code Orange. A true New Yorker, Mitty loves everything about his city. There is so much to do, and so many great places to go. Unfortunately, there is one problem that keeps him from spending time in his beloved city ... school. Mitty is a total slacker when it comes to formalized education, and he is on the brink of being kicked out of his advance biology class at the private school he attends in Manhattan and totally disappointing his parents. Being the procrastinator he is, Mitty finds himself with a major dilemma one Friday. He must turn in 10 pages of notes for a research paper on an infectious disease complete with resources used to get those notes. Of course, that isn’t the worst of it; four of the resources for the notes must be books. Regardless of Mitty’s slacking ways, he is resourceful, and thanks to his mother’s design business, finds four medical books and discovers variola major, a highly contagious disease. While Mitty’s main conflict is between himself, the conflict grows to include society in an awesome plot twist, which keep the suspense high even after the climax.
Mitty has a definite flaw when it comes to his work ethic and school, not unlike many students I know. This makes Mitty very realistic. Mitty also has many redeeming qualities. He is intelligent. This traits appears as he works through his paper on smallpox. Mitty consciously tries not just to copy his research in order to finish his paper. Instead, he purposefully uses his own words and recognizes his own voice in the paper. This shows that despite his work ethic, Mitty does have some higher principles. Mitty’s development through the story also shows qualities that prove him to be responsible and provides hope that once he matures his work ethic will change. The event that strongly illustrates this is when he unselfishly realizes that he has to protect not only the people he cares most about, his parents and friends, but New York City and possibly the world. Had he been a bit more mature, he probably would have made a better choice about how do accomplish this, but that would have blown the climax. Mitty is definitely a dynamic and rounded character because the resolution of his problem clearly helps him changed from the immature slacker he was at the beginning of the book to one who recognizes his flaws. Along with this recognition comes better decisions.
Code Orange remains a good read that appeals to both male and female readers. Mitty’s character is well developed, and although the some of the events may seem far fetched, Cooney’s talent allows the reader to suspend disbelief and enjoy the adventure.