Friday, March 29, 2013

Orchards by Holly Thompson

Orchards is a powerful novel in verse by Holly Thompson, about the repercussions of bullying and the meaning of home. In this novel, Kana Golberg is sent away to live with her mother's family in Japan after a classmate commits suicide. During her summer in Japan, Kana works on the orange farm and is forced to reflect on the role she may have played, and what she could have done to stop the bullying. It's a simple story, but its strength is really in the setting. Thompson brings the Japanese farm to life, and deftly takes on the cultural issues felt by Kana who is half Japanese and half Jewish-American. There definitely aren't enough novels with biracial protagonists, and I thought this one did an excellent job with mentioning some of the unique issues without making it Kana's defining feature.

I thought it was really interesting how even though the novel was in verse, it was still divided up into chapters. The verse writing is excellent, and the page and line breaks are thoughtful and well-placed. It really added to some of the fragmentation of Kana's thoughts at times, and made it quick, easy, and lovely to read. The story is complimented by some illustrations, though I found them unnecessary. Thompson's words illustrated everything I needed to see.

Ultimately, I don't know why I waited so long to pick up Orchards, but as soon as I did I couldn't put it down. I devoured half the book that night before bed, and read the rest before work the next day– I just couldn't leave until I finished it. The writing was smooth and lyrical, and it was easy to form an emotional connection with Kana, even though– or maybe because– she wasn't perfect. I will definitely be recommending Orchards and I'm very excited to pick up Thompson's followup, The Language Inside when it is released in May.

Release Date: February 22nd 2011  Pages: 336  Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher  Publisher: Random House  Buy It: Book Depository


  1. I looooved this book. Such a touching story. It was my first book in verse and I still can't believe how much I loved it. I'm really looking forward to Holly Thompson's next book, too!

  2. I loved this book too. Please let me know anytime you review novels in verse. Have you signed up for VerseDay 2013 on We're still looking for contributors for the second half of the year.


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