Saturday, February 19, 2011

Review: Orchards by Holly Thompson

Release Date: February 22nd, 2011
     Kana is sent to live in Japan for the summer with her family there after one of her classmates, Ruth, commits suicide. During the school year, her and her "cliquey friends" had said some careless things about Ruth. Her parents hope this trip will force Kana to reflect on her behavior as she labors for hours in the hot, Japanese sun, tending to her family's mikan orange groves. With her half-Japanese, half-Jewish American heritage , Kana learns how hard it is to fit in as she is criticized by her extremely traditional grandmother, who never approved of Kana's American father. Kana begins to really understand and process the damage she and her friends have done, registering the pain and guilt for what it is. When more bad news reaches her, Kana wonders how can she mend herself and those around her. Told in an easy-flowing verse with a first person narrative and accompanied by cute illustrations, Orchards is sure to open every one's eyes to what a few thoughtless words can do.

   The hardcover edition will have 320 pages , 35 chapters and is a middle-grade novel.

   This book definitely surprised me. I, personally, am not a fan of books written in verse. They are too quick, never lending me time to think about the plot until it's over. Books written in verse also tend to have a certain degree of poor development, whether it be in characters or plot or, sometimes setting or premise. But Orchards, honestly, wasn't all that bad. Each chapter is like it's own individual poem and it's interesting how Kana seems to be talking to Ruth the whole time, as if each poem is a letter to her, apologizing or cluing her in on what's happening and often blaming Ruth for what she's forced to do. I learned so much about the ancestral Japanese culture as Kana journeys through holiday and rituals native to Japan.Kana is a riveting character and I simply couldn't wait to see what obstacle she'd have to deal with next.The narration was excellent and I wasn't expecting the turn of events or the ending. But some things didn't work for me. Kana's homesickness comes and goes as it's needed and she doesn't seem to whine as much as I imagine a preppy eighth grade girl from New York would if she were to work in orchards for hours on end in the blazing sun. I somehow expected more resistance to the actin the form of complaints. Kana's interest in building and physics was unique, and I like how it's used again and again, but it would have been nice if it was more developed before it became miportan tto the story.
   Despite all of that, I would still recommend this book. It shows the bad side of bullying from the bystander's point of view and puts out there the new forms of bullying. Many would say in order for an act to be considered bullying, it has to be physically offensive, but Orchards  deals with the catty girl exclusion trick gone awry. Newer forms of bullying need to be more publicized and this book definitely aids that cause. I do wish that more of the circumstances about Ruth was discussed. It all seems very vague and less developed than Kana's feelings about other things. But I must say Kana grows over the course of the novel,  from looking to put the blame on everyone else to focusing all her power on fixing the damage. Overall a meaningful read that could open many eyes.
    Level of Romance: None.
            Rating: 4 out of 5

1 comment:

MissA said...

I did a Wow post on Orchards and then forgot about its release coming up! It's very timely that this story is coming out, from the perspective of a girl who unconsciously bullied another classmate. After the tragic recent bullying incidents in Massachusetts and elsewhere.

And I kinda like that there's no romance in this one.