In ORCHARDS (Delacorte), we're transported to an orange grove in rural Japan with all five senses engaged. We explore layers of grief, anger, courage, and hope in a world shattered by suicide through the sometimes funny, sometimes heartbroken, always honest voice of half-Japanese, half-Jewish American eighth-grader Kana Goldberg.
I enjoyed the confidence Kana displayed when describing her mixed cultural heritage: "They seem to think | I can just switch | one half of me | on | and leave the other | half of me | off | but I’m like | warm water | pouring from a faucet | the hot | and cold | both flowing | as one." Thompson isn't Japanese but has lived there for years, so the novel's take on the culture from the perspective of an outsider with insider relationships and privileges rings true.
I read through this lovely novel in verse in one setting, and so will most teen readers. I wasn't at all surprised to discover in the author's note that the novel reflects the nuanced, culturally-savvy editorial skills of Random House's Françoise Bui (who edited my own Monsoon Summer and Secret Keeper). ORCHARDS won the 2012 APALA Asian/Pacific Award for Literature and received a starred review in School Library Journal.