In the preface to Tangerine Paul Fisher, the seventh-grade protagonist, stands looking around his empty house in Houston, Texas. He and his family have just packed up everything. They’re moving to Florida. Paul’s dad and Paul's brother, Erik, have gone ahead; Paul and his mom will be driving together. Paul takes the last bag of trash to the curb and looks up at the rising sun. It’s at this moment that we learn that Paul wears extremely thick glasses because there is something wrong with his eyes. As Paul stands on the curb, he has a disturbing flashback: he remembers riding his bike down his street, being chased by a car. Someone is leaning out of the car window wearing a ski mask and waving a baseball bat. Paul falls off his bike before the masked person can swing the bat at his head. He runs into his house crying, telling his parents that the masked person was his brother, Erik. But his mom points to Erik who’s sitting on the couch reading. Now Paul stands on the curb thinking about the zombie that they’ve just locked out of the house and he and his mother set out to Florida, to meet up with Erik and the dad.
The preface of Tangerine establishes Paul’s voice. He is at a stage of life where his childhood imagination is still an important part of who he is, but it also has a critical view of his surroundings. The preface also reveals an important point of the novel: something is not right between Paul and his older brother, Erik. There is something sinister about Erik, and Paul is afraid of him.