Tangerine is a YA novel that follows the story of Paul and his brother Erik after they begin attending a new middle school. Paul, despite the fact that he is legally blind, manages to find friends and a place at his new school, but Erik struggles, causing him to angrily relatilate, resulting in the death of one of his classmates. As events unfold, Paul learns the meaning of friendship and realizes that his brother isn't the good person Paul believed him to be.
Before the beginning, when Paul Fisher is in kindergarten. One of Erik's friends calls Paul "Eclipse Boy". (Erik is Paul's brother) On Paul's first day of kindergarten, he is bullied by 5th graders about him being legally blind. At the beginning of the novel, Erik and Paul move houses, with their parents, from Houston, Texas to Lake Windsor Downs in rural Tangerine, Florida. Erik, the older son, looks forward to a football scholarship at the university of his choice. Paul, the younger son, is visually impaired and considered blind, but plays soccer. His family credits his visual injury to a solar eclipse, which he does not remember. Soon after they unpack, Paul goes for a tour of his new school, where characters Mike Costello and his brother Joey are introduced. One day at football practice, Mike Costello is killed by lightning; whereupon Erik and his friend Arthur Bauer tell jokes after hearing the news, even though Mike was one of their teammates. On his first day of school, Paul meets Coach Walski, the coach of the soccer team, and tries out for the team, but is later told that his visual impairment prevents his eligibility, and blames this on his mother's revelation of the impairment to the school administrators.
While Paul is at school, a field of portable classrooms collapses into a sinkhole. Many people, including Paul and Joey, try to rescue those trapped, and no one is seriously injured. The emergency relocation plan gives the students the choice to stay at Lake Windsor, their present school, with a different schedule and more crowded classes, or to transfer to Tangerine Middle School, on the other, poorer side of the county; and Paul chooses Tangerine Middle, to play soccer again. When he arrives at Tangerine Middle School, he is shown around by a girl named Theresa. At lunch, Paul asks Theresa about the soccer team. Theresa tells Paul that her brother, Tino, is a member. She brings Paul to a soccer meet after school and he joins. At first, Paul's teammates Victor, the team captain, and Tino hesitate to befriend him; but a victory in the first game of the season (against the aggressive Palmetto Whipoorwils) convinces Victor to do so. Paul then persuades Joey Costello to join the school. After a quarrel with Paul, Joey returns to Lake Windsor. Throughout the story, houses in Paul's neighborhood are fumigated for termites many of the houses are robbed by Erik and his friend Arthur. A man named Luis is introduced as the older brother of Theresa and Tino. Luis works at his parents' citrus farm and is developing a new kind of tangerine called the Golden Dawn. While at Paul's house for a school project, Tino makes a comment about how Erik fell down while attempting to a kick an extra point during an earlier football game; and Erik slaps Tino. Luis goes to Erik's football practice to confront him with this; but Erik distracts him while signaling his friend Arthur to strike Luis from behind using a club, which is referred to as a "blackjack" for the rest of the story. This is witnessed by Paul, and Luis is found dead six days later from an aneurysm. Arthur had hit Luis hard enough to cause the aneurysm to weaken, and eventually burst 6 days later. Paul is told by Theresa not to go to the funeral because he is Erik's brother, and he grieves alone.
On the Senior Awards Night, Tino and Victor attack Erik and Arthur as revenge for killing Luis. The football coach restrains Tino, but Paul distracts him by jumping on his back, so that Tino and Victor can escape. Paul runs back to his house, where he newly remembers that Vincent and Erik, in the belief that Paul exposed him (Erik) and his friend Vincent Castor for spray painting a wall in their old neighborhood. Vincent held Paul's eyelids open while Erik sprayed paint into Paul's eyes, and confronts his parents for concealment of the story. Arthur is arrested for murdering Luis, and Erik is expected to be arrested later but is then placed on house arrest until further notice. Paul is expelled from the Tangerine school district for jumping on the coach, and transferred to St. Anthony's, a private Catholic school. Readers are left with Paul presumably returning to Tangerine Middle School the following school year.