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3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  917 Ratings  ·  176 Reviews
Winner of the APALA Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature
An ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Book

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
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 22nd 2011 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
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Newbery 2012
53rd out of 141 books — 721 voters
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YA Novels of 2011
422nd out of 1,166 books — 7,015 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,703)
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Jonathan Peto
Aug 05, 2014 Jonathan Peto rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels, ya
If you look, you'll see that Holly Thompson is one of my Goodreads friends. I'm under no pressure to give her book a good review though. I only found her here after she visited my school. Otherwise, we are not acquainted.

I am acquainted with her topic. Not suicide, but Japan. And orchards, both apple and mikan. As a student, I worked at UMASS's apple orchard in Belchertown, MA. I also lived in a mikan growing region of Japan at one time, so I was looking forward to reading a book that touched on
Jan 11, 2013 Nafiza rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, verse-novels
This verse novel by Holly Thompson flips the perspective on bullying and shows what happens to the bullies when their bullying has tragic consequences. Thompson’s novel follows Kana’s displacement from New York to an orange orchard in Japan, her mother’s place of birth and home. The novel is particularly successful in portraying the various degrees of culture shock felt by Kana and how immersion into her new life affects her feelings of guilt over what happened to her classmate.

The verse is spar
Mar 30, 2015 Anvita rated it really liked it
I loved the book - especially the way it was written. The poetry format was very interesting as it was simple and fast to read. The story really made me think about the impact of events - especially sadness. How emotions are infectious, and how they can effect people even if they didn't have anything directly to do with it. It makes me think about our world now and how we feel sad/empathetic to events that don't even impact us directly. It shows how human emotions work and I found that interesti ...more
Feb 22, 2011 Jenny rated it really liked it
Orchards is an amazing little book about guilt, healing, family, and life, among other things. It is written entirely in free verse, so it reads quickly and easily even though it touches on some heavy subjects such as suicide and body image.

Kana is an easily likable and sympathetic character. In the aftermath of a classmate's suicide, she feels guilt for things that she didn't do, things she didn't know, things that in hindsight she feels that she should have done or known. But at the same time
Anne Marie
Jun 11, 2015 Anne Marie rated it it was amazing
Heartbreaking. Beautiful. A must read for anyone who has known they have hurt others - by accident or selfishly internationally. I enjoyed reading most of this book in one sitting.
Carol Baldwin
From the number of novels-in-verse that I review, you may guess this is a genre close to my heart. Ever since I was in high school and poured my heart out in free verse, I've admired this genre. But there is more than a world apart from my attempts and beautifully written novels such as THE GOOD BRAIDER, BLUE BIRDS, CRAZY, THE KISS OF BROKEN GLASS. I am consistently impressed with these authors' ability to tell well-plotted stories using succinct, figurative language.

Let's add ORCHARDS by Holly
Jun 10, 2015 Ella rated it really liked it
This book beautifully written and was the first novel I have read that had a story written in poetry. At the beginning of the book I found it very complex and confusing, but later on throughout the book I understood who the characters were are what the story was about. Orchards has themes such as guilt, friendship and culture in it and tackles the issue bullying and what extremes it can bring. I found the cover of this book very misleading and confusing as it doesn't relate as much to the story. ...more
May 15, 2014 Radhika rated it really liked it
A good story narrated in poetry,
Kana Goldberg half Japanese half Jew high schooler is sent to Japan to reflect on the death of her classmate who commits suicide. The kids are held responsible for the tragedy.

A wonderful insight into the minds of teenagers who come to realisation after the event, the enormity of their actions and realise that life sometimes does not give second chances. Actions, words all of them can lead to drastic consequences and remorse is the only remnant of these actions

Jul 24, 2015 Starlight rated it really liked it
Orchards was a beautiful book. Told in a verse style, it reads like an Ellen Hopkins novel, with quick, easy to read pages which makes for a fast read (I finished it in just a few hours.) Orchards mainly focuses on Kana, the half-japanese, half-jewish protagonist who was involved in the bullying of Ruth, who committed suicide. Because of her involvement, Kana is sent to spend her summer away from home with her Japanese relatives. There, while working, she begins to reflect upon the events and wo ...more
Mar 25, 2015 Lyn rated it it was amazing
Someone handed me this book, one that I'd probably pass over thanks to the misleading cover shot: half-face and sensual lips that I think objectifies the young girl. Alas, one must market to the supposed "middle" to get those with supposed raging hormones and need for perfect bodies to pick this up. I tend to believe our youth are smarter than that. So glad I didn't pass this up. This is a powerful story full of lush language.

I didn't think I would be up for a novel in free verse, but Thompson
May 24, 2011 Karen rated it liked it
Timely tale of bullying told from a bully's point of view. Kana - half-Japanese, half-Jewish, is sent to Japan to live with family for the summer after the suicide of a classmate who she had a hand in ostracizing. I felt like the sparse prose was a great way to handle Kana's fluctuating feelings after her classmate's death and the subsequent repercussions. I thought the story had a slow start - if it had not, I probably would have given it 4 stars.
Cheyanna Sundquist
Oct 03, 2014 Cheyanna Sundquist rated it really liked it
Orchards by Holly Thompson. Kana which is half japanese and half Jewish American went to japan to spend time with the family over summer. After her classmate commits suicide she wonders what lead her to this. Her friends and her have been saying rude things to this girl. Her parents realize how bad her attitude has been the past couple weeks. They send her to her grandparents to work in the hot burning sun to think how she has been. Kana always think it is hard to fit in since her grandmother ha ...more
Feb 29, 2016 Faith rated it really liked it
Orchards by Holly Thompson

Orchards is a book about a young Japanese-Jew named, Kana. Kana has always had a low self esteem about her weight and body type. In the story, Kana comes to find that a fellow student has committed suicide due to Kana's crude behavior towards her. From this, Kana is punished with a trip to Japan to find herself using her family's help. In Japan, Kana struggles to understand the true meaning of family as she shows her aloof characteristic during that period of time. Henc
Sep 21, 2014 Kelly rated it really liked it
Shelves: gush-worthy, teen, japan
I'm so glad to have happened upon this book. It swept me up in its beautiful language and expert use of prose to transport me to places I've never been and problems I've never had. Contemporary teen lit right now is cluttered with sappy sad stories of "unusual" love in one-and-million circumstances. There should be more like Orchards; there should be more stories that delve into tragedy and show how it can transform people and create something better. Of course, some readers may argue that more ...more
Jul 18, 2011 Jolene rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-fiction
Written in verse, Orchard reveals the story of Hana half japanese half jewish new york teen who is sent to Japan after a friends suicide. A great short read and great for teen dealing with bullying and suicide in school or with friends.
Int'l librarian
Another novel in verse – another two hour speed read and done. Oh well.

The descriptions of Japanese orange grove cultivation are interesting. And I like the quick glimpses of Mt. Fuji and spiritual ritual and village life. But there isn’t enough here to get me emotionally involved in the setting.

And that’s not the core of the story, anyway. Orchards aims to be a poetic warning against the evils of cyberbullying. The narrator, Kana, is an 8th grade Japanese-American, visiting her Japanese side
May 23, 2011 Namrata rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book was really good. I started reading it and I couldn't put it down. Usually I'm not a fan of books written in free verse but this one was really nice. It was sad at some parts but I really liked how the story ended.
Feb 05, 2013 Jen rated it liked it
It took me a while to get a feel for her style of writing, but once I did, I enjoyed the book. It covers a powerful topic, which I appreciate!
Kathleen Burkinshaw
Nov 16, 2015 Kathleen Burkinshaw rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Saleena Davidson
Feb 05, 2014 Saleena Davidson rated it liked it
Orchards is a book in verse.....and while it's sad in content, it stays uplifting and speaks to the power of family. When a classmate of Kana's commits suicide, her mother sends her to her extended family in Japan in an effort to get her away from the situation and also keep grounded while getting to know her mother's family better. The family has orchards and Kana helps with various pruning and maintenance duties as well as generally getting used to an entirely different culture. This is a quie ...more
Piper (An Ocean of Words)
"most atoms
aren't as stable
as they seem."

I wish I had been given this book before I entered my 8th grade year. Middle School is confusing enough as it is- but during that time, many kids say and do terrible things, never realizing the true impact of it all. For the most part, this doesn't result in suicide. But in Kana's case, it did. This book teaches so many lessons about society, culture, guilt, and mourning. It's hard to explain in depth because there are so many dimensions in this story.

Stories & Sweeties {Becky}
Mar 07, 2011 Stories & Sweeties {Becky} rated it really liked it
This is my first foray into the world of books written in verse. I admit, I was a little hesitant at first. But as far as Orchards is concerned, it was amazing. The rhythm of the words fit the subject and tone this story was trying to get across just perfectly. This book is described as being written in spare yet evocative verse, and they weren't kidding. There was, on average, about twenty lines of verse on each page. With this writing method, you seem to get more of a "feel" for what is going ...more
Reviewed at:

4.5 stars

After a classmate of Kana's commits suicide, Kana wonders if she is partially responsible as her and her friends were not kind to Ruth and since her death Kana has learned a lot about her. To help her get through her grief and away from the situation, Kana, half Japanese half Jewish, is sent to stay in her mother's small home village in Japan. Here Kana works in the orange groves and finds peace within the orchards. Though at times sh
Sep 08, 2011 Kate rated it liked it

Characters: Kana, her friends her family Kana is an 8th grade girl who is sent away because of the suicide of a classmate that one of her friends supposedly caused she is punished and sent to japan. All the characters are flat at times it was hard to remember who her friends were when one of there names would pop up or even what her name was. Random characters would be named out of no where random crushes and friends which really did nothing for the story. What pulled the characters dow
Feb 05, 2016 Hannah rated it liked it
A Half Jewish - Half Japanese girl named Kana is trying to deal with the death of one of her classmates. In fact all the girls of her grade are trying to deal with it since it was mostly their fault, or so they believe. Ruth killed herself. She was dealing with being bipolar and none of the girls in her class knew this, they just made fun of her and said nasty things to her, but now all the girls have been sent off to spend their summers apart. Kana is in Japan with her mother's family and this ...more
Apr 04, 2011 Kristin rated it it was ok
Orchards is a book about a group of middle school girls who contribute to a classmate's decision to commit suicide. The girls bully and ostracize her, and the ring leader, Lisa, gives Ruth a note stating, "I hope you die." Ruth then walks to her friend's family's orchard, where she hangs herself from an apple tree. None of this is a surprise - the reader goes into this novel-in-poems knowing that Ruth has killed herself. The story is told from Kana's point of view. Kana was part of the group who ...more
Ms. Schutte
Jul 20, 2013 Ms. Schutte rated it liked it
Beautifully told novel in verse about the summer when Kana's parents send her to Japan to live with her grandparents and help them in their mikan orange groves after a girl in her 8th-grade class commits suicide. There are a lot of really interesting themes in this book, which is what carries it: what it means to be half Japanese and half Jewish with one foot in both worlds, how families choose to help each other through tough times or not, the importance and power of tradition, the paralyzing e ...more
Aug 22, 2011 Ari rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011

I think the free verse format of the book kept me from better visualizing the countryside of Japan. I've got the travel bug so I wanted way more details than were provided. Kana does spend a lot of time describing food which was yummy to read about (this coming from someone whose never had Japanese food) but I wanted her to describe the differences in schooling, what do the teenagers in Japan do for fun, etc. Instead Kana is a loner in Japan except for cousins a few years older than herself
Nov 10, 2011 Rachel rated it really liked it
One of the reasons I like free-verse is that it gives the opportunity for the reader/writer to discuss topics that would otherwise be difficult to put across in a normal fiction novel, like the Holocaust and teenage suicide. Orchards is about an eighth grade girl named Kana (half Jewish/half Japanese)and her friends who unwittingly caused the suicide of a classmate by being mean. Kana is sent away to Japan, to her mother's family to work in their orchard for the summer. Kana learns that working ...more
Jul 14, 2013 Wendolyn rated it really liked it
Recommended to Wendolyn by: Abby
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
JPL YA Reading Ch...: Novel in verse 1 4 Apr 29, 2013 02:23PM  
UWCSEA English/Li...: Suicide in middle school novels? 3 23 Nov 04, 2012 06:08PM  
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Holly Thompson ( is a native of Massachusetts and a longtime resident of Japan. A graduate of the NYU Creative Writing Program, she writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction for children through adults. She is author of the verse novels Falling into the Dragon's Mouth, The Language Inside, and Orchards; the picture books The Wakame Gatherers and the forthcoming Twilight Chant; and the ...more
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“Newton's third law
of reciprocal action
for every action there is an equal
and opposite
that all forces are interactions
all forces come in pairs

Physics and You
spells it out
if body A exerts a force
on body B
then body B will exert a force
of the same magnitude
on body A

push and pull

I think
maybe this
is what happened
with Lisa
and you, Ruth -
body A
and body B”
More quotes…