Code Orange (novel)

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Code Orange
Author Caroline B. Cooney
Country United States
Language English
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
ISBN 0385732597

Code Orange is a 2005 young adult novel by Caroline B. Cooney. The novel won a National Science Teachers Association recommendation and has been frequently used in classrooms.[1][2][3] The Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy also marked the book as one of their Young Adults' Choices for 2007.[4]


Mitchell "Mitty" Blake is a teenage boy who lives in New York City with his parents. He is carefree and does not worry much about his grades or school. When his biology teacher Mr. Lynch assigns him to write a report about an infectious disease, Mitty has no idea what virus to research. His friend Derek has chosen the topic of anthrax while his crush Olivia has chosen typhoid. Derek talks about anthrax constantly and the studious Olivia tries to help Mitty with his research. During a trip to his family's home in the Connecticut countryside that the Blakes always visit every weekend, Mitty finds some old medical books from Boston in 1902. What he discovers in the book changes his life forever.

Inside the book, Mitty finds an old envelope containing scabs from Variola major (a severe form of smallpox) from an epidemic in 1902. He inhales dust from one of the scabs which have crumbled as he handles them without him knowing it and later believes that he has lost one of the scabs that he was going to use as part of his project to improve his grade. Mitty begins to think that he has acquired smallpox and is developing symptoms. He posts questions online about smallpox, unwittingly attracting the attention of people who want to take advantage of the disease.

After he attempts suicide to make sure he does not start the smallpox epidemic all over again, Mitty is kidnapped by terrorists who want the precious scabs to infect the United States. Mitty manages to escape his captors and learns that he does not have smallpox, though he is still hospitalized for the injuries inflicted on him by his kidnappers. At the end of the book it is implied that Mitty and his close friend Olivia will get together and be a couple.


Critical reception has been mostly positive,[5][6] and Code Orange has received praise from the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and Horn Book Magazine.[7][8] Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly both praised Code Orange,[9] and Kirkus Reviews wrote "Punctuating the drama with plenty of humor, Cooney builds the suspense and keeps it going for another teen-pleaser that’s hard to put down."[10]


  1. ^ "NSTA Recommends: Code Orange". National Science Teachers Association. Retrieved March 19, 2013. 
  2. ^ Cossett Lent, ReLeah (2012). Overcoming Textbook Fatigue. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. p. 70. ISBN 9781416614722. Retrieved August 31, 2014. 
  3. ^ Baxter, Kathleen A.; Kochel, Marcia Agness. Get Those Guys Reading!: Fiction and Series Books that Boys Will Love. ABC-CLIO. p. 9. ISBN 9781598848472. Retrieved August 31, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Young Adults' Choices for 2007". Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 51 (3): 265. 2007. Retrieved August 31, 2014. 
  5. ^ Rohrlick, Paula (September 2005). "Code Orange (review)". Kliatt. 39 (5). Retrieved August 31, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Code Orange (review)". Booklist. Retrieved August 31, 2014. 
  7. ^ Stevenson, Deborah (2005). "Code Orange (review)". Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. 59 (2): 79–80. Retrieved August 31, 2014. (registration required (help)). 
  8. ^ Chapman, Jeannine M. (September–October 2005). "Code Orange (review)". The Horn Book Magazine. 81 (5): 574. Retrieved August 31, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Code Orange (review)". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved August 31, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Code Orange (review)". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved August 31, 2014.