by Holly Thompson
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February, 2011
List Price: $17.99
Review: Imagine if one of your classmates commits suicide, and you know you are part of the reason she did so. Next thing you know, you are being shipped off to your cousin's house in Japan… far away from your home. Orchards tells this story. In beautiful poetry, Orchards also tells the story of how everyone else who is wrapped up in this same situation decides how to handle their regret and sorrow for the classmate who committed suicide. The main character, Kara Goldberg, faces many problems of her own while tending her cousin's orange groves. Orchards is a novel written by Holly Thompson that will keep you wanting to read more. If you enjoy tragedies, this is the type of book for you.
To begin, a terrible tragedy takes place in Kara's hometown. One of Kara's classmates commits suicide, and Kara believes she and her friends may be the cause. Kara's parents believe that in order for Kara to reflect on her behavior, she should be sent far away from her home to Japan for the summer and tend her families orange groves with her cousins, aunt and uncle. As the summer moves along, Kara discovers more about her relatives, Japan, and the village's culture. During this, Kara learns how to live with the pain and guilt. Just when Kara begins to forget about the tragedy back home, something one of her friends does sends her right back to the beginning. Guilt is constantly hanging over her head, and never- ending thoughts of the tragedy take place. A spectacular ending wraps up the book perfectly, leaving you wanting more.
Overall, Orchards is a wonderful book with only a one negative point. The story begins at a very slow- moving pace, but sets the scene very nicely. You may think that because Orchards is written in beautiful poetry that it makes it harder to read and follow along, but there is no dramatic difference. This is what makes Orchards unique from most of the other books I have read in the past. Also, I love how you can almost feel the main characters pain because her thoughts are of Ruth (the girl who committed suicide) and what she could have done differently to prevent this from happening. For example, one of the poems is
if you had told me
what you told Jake
if Jake had told Lisa
what you'd told him
if you had told Jake
what to tell Lisa
if Lisa had told us
I want to think the texts and chats
would have ended and
we would have listened
would have understood.
I also love how the thoughts of the girl who commits suicide begin to disappear as the book goes on. And you can see how Kara changes, how she begins to forget the tragedy. One other thing that makes Orchards a fantastic book is that you can see how Kara's opinion changes about Japan, and how this experience changed her life. Orchards is a lovely book.
I give Orchards by Holly Thompson four stars, because of the slow- moving beginning.
Review written by Abby (6th grade student).
We would like to thank Random House for providing a copy of Orchards for this review.
Have you read Orchards? How would you rate it?