Orchards by Holly ThompsonThursday, August 11, 2011
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After a classmate commits suicide, Kana Goldberg—a half-Japanese, half-Jewish American—wonders who is responsible. She and her cliquey friends said some thoughtless things to the girl. Hoping that Kana will reflect on her behavior, her parents pack her off to her mother's ancestral home in Japan for the summer. There Kana spends hours under the hot sun tending to her family's mikan orange groves.Kana goes through a hard time after a student at her school commits suicide. When she is sent to Japan to live with her relatives, she realizes a few things about herself and others along the way.
Kana's mixed heritage makes it hard to fit in at first, especially under the critical eye of her traditional grandmother, who has never accepted Kana's father. But as the summer unfolds, Kana gets to know her relatives, Japan, and village culture, and she begins to process the pain and guilt she feels about the tragedy back home. Then news about a friend sends her world spinning out of orbit all over again. --Goodreads
I enjoyed Orchards. It was a fast read, mostly because it was a verse novel. I was surprised that a verse novel was able to hold such emotion and feeling into so few words. It was remarkable how the book talked about bullying and suicide and didn't make it seem like too much topics in one. The writing definitely captured my attention. Thompson's flowing stanzas and the tone took me to a different world all together.
The setting was very powerful within the story. The calming set of Kana's family's mikan orange groves helped develop the mood. It truly enveloped the reader into the story that Thompson created so cleverly.
With almost every story that talks about death, it will end with the forgive or forget choice. Orchards did not seem to follow the same standards. The ending was unique. I was content after the last page, without giving too much away, I was satisfied that Kana had learned so much with her relatives. Her character was developed so beautifully that I couldn't help but tear up.
There were so many characters that I really couldn't keep then straight. I would get so immersed in the writing, all the characters' names would get to be too much. The main character, Kana, was the one I was able to connect with the most. She was relatable; she felt like she didn't belong and she worried about making wrong decisions. It was her voice that spoke to me and by the end, it seemed like I, too, had grown up a bit from just reading the novel.
Writing Style: 5
Rated PG-13 for teen bullying and suicide.