City of Orange, the latest novel by New York Times-bestselling author David Yoon
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City of Orange
A man wakes up in an unknown landscape, injured and alone. He used to live in a place called California, but how did he wind up here with a head wound and a bottle of pills in his pocket?
He navigates his surroundings, one rough shape at a time. Here lies a pipe, there a reed that could be carved into a weapon, beyond a city he once lived in. He could swear his daughter’s name began with a J, but what was it, exactly?
Then he encounters an old man, a crow, and a boy—and realizes that nothing is what he thought it was, neither the present nor the past.
He can’t even recall the features of his own face, and wonders: who am I?
Harrowing and haunting but also humorous in the face of the unfathomable, David Yoon’s City of Orange is a novel about reassembling the things that make us who we are, and finding the way home again.
To purchase City of Orange, click any of the following links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble & IndieBound
My Thoughts on City of Orange
“He awakes with his eyes closed.”
From the opening line, readers know they are in for something different. This isn’t the usual mystery/thriller/psychological suspense. This is a post—or maybe middle—of a pandemic literary work that echoes the sensations that many of us feel. Life took a left turn in March of 2020 and we’ve been stuck in an alternate reality ever since.
Something very, very bad happened to the protagonist of Yoon’s genre-bending latest novel. And that bad event is at the heart of this moody, distorted-reality character study.
The protagonist, his name remains a mystery for much of the novel, wakes in the sand next to a concrete river in a city somewhere in California. That’s all he can remember. “His head pulses with pain,” from some forgotten accident. “He tests the dead batteries of his memory. He can remember a few fundamentals without much effort: these are called fingers, this is sand, this is his head.”
Slowly, painstakingly, memories begin to return. And with them the unshakable feeling that he might be better off remaining in a state of ignorance.
City of Orange unrolls like a tumbleweed across the desert landscape. In fits and starts, changing direction, then rolling back the way it came, before moving again inexorably toward the horizon line. The main character centers his new existence on a crawl space under a concrete bridge. A place of safety to return to after failing to venture out much past his line of sight. The first matter at hand, survival. Water. Food. Painkillers. His actions are sluggish as he begins to die of dehydration and starvation, and isn’t sure he cares.
But life is tenacious and once the basics are seen to, more memories surface.
No matter how hard he shies away from what might have happened before this post-apocalyptic version of the world ended life as he knew it, he can’t live in ignorance forever. Along with his memories, a few chance encounters with individuals as shattered and lost as himself finally dislodge him from his stasis, for memories refuse to stay buried.
And the memories come.
Unable to turn off his mind, the character continues to unwind how the world ended, interspersed with recollections of his wife and child. Though he’s remains unable to answer the question, are they still out there?
That question draws the protagonist and the reader through the pain of the past to finally discover what faces the unnamed man in the present.
David Yoon has written a tale of love and survival, perfect for the untethered nature of our times. A study of how much we lack control of the very things we believe to be permanent. We discover, alongside him, that life can’t be played by the rules, if nothing controls the game. Still, there is peace in coming to terms with our inability to sway events no matter how hard we try.
David Yoon is the New York Times bestselling author of Frankly in Love, Super Fake Love Song, and for adult readers, Version Zero and City of Orange.
He’s a William C. Morris Award finalist and an Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature Honor book recipient. He’s co-publisher of Joy Revolution, a Random House young adult imprint dedicated to love stories starring people of color.
He’s also co-founder of Yooniverse Media, which currently has a first look deal with Anonymous Content for film/TV development. David grew up in Orange County, California, and now lives in Los Angeles with his wife, novelist Nicola Yoon, and their daughter.
To learn more about David, click on his name, photo, or any of the following links: Instagram, Twitter, Linktree & TikTok
Elena Taylor/Elena Hartwell
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Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator 2020
Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery 2020
The Foundation of Plot, a Wait, Wait, Don’t Query (Yet!) guidebook. Out July 19.
Header photo by _Marion on Pixabay