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'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.
"The narrative is rich in authentic cultural detail and is complemented by attractive woodcut illustrations of Japanese imagery to evoke the story’s setting. Thompson has crafted an exquisite, thought-provoking story of grief and healing that will resonate with teen readers and give them much to discuss." --School Library Journal
"A fast-paced page-turner that explores the rippling effects of suicide." --Kirkus Reviews
"Eloquently captures a teenager's anger, guilt, and sorrow after a classmate takes her own life.... Understated yet potent verse." --Publishers Weekly
"Readers will want to talk about the big issues, especially the guilt of doing nothing." --Booklist
"Thompson expertly depicts the dualism in Kana.... Teens who enjoy learning about other cultures will relish Thompson's ability to evoke the sights, smells, an tastes of Japan, while poetry fans will enjoy the novel's unique format." --VOYA
"The impact of bullying, cruelty, and harsh words that cut deep are deftly woven into an eloquent novel that captures the essence of a teen surviving and coping with many forms of grief, loss, anger, hope, fear, blame, love, and regret. The verse lends itself to a quick, but powerful read; the novel is packed with events that keep readers turning the pages. Orchards is a novel that one wants to return to again after the last word. The contemporary issues that conflate teen relationships have universal significance for all teenagers, regardless of race or ethnicity." Worlds of Words
"Thompson’s sparse pages speak volumes, from Kana’s complicit guilt, to her forced-to-be-wise-attempts to understand (“as though / we’re dressed up / in oversized adult clothing”), to her astute, gorgeous response to help her friends and classmates to heal … and live. Thompson confronts every-parent’s-nightmare-come-true with breathtaking clarity; Orchards is both a wake-up call and a haunting elegy. It’s not easy to read, but it’s undoubtedly a must-read." --BookDragon