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3.76  ·  Rating details ·  1,184 ratings  ·  213 reviews
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 famil ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 22nd 2011 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
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Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,184 ratings  ·  213 reviews

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Jonathan Peto
May 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, 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
Aug 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 25, 2015 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 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Poignant. Thoughtful. Refreshing. This story tackled the subject of suicide in an honest and gentle way. Left me reeling from the artistry, and craving the sweet juice of mikan (mandarin orange) on my tongue.
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Kana is sent to live with relatives in a Japanese village for the summer after something tragic happens to one of her friends. I really enjoyed the setting on this one, with descriptions of the customs, countryside, weather (humid!), food (what does a mikan taste like?), cold drinks, and clothing. I was disappointed that Kana never really talks about what happened to any of her relatives, and that it was never clear what exactly Lisa and Kana's other friends did to contribute to the tragedy. I f ...more
Anne Marie
Mar 05, 2015 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
Rian Durant
Jan 31, 2018 rated it liked it
This was the first book in free verse I am reading and I kind of liked it. I don’t believe I’ll be actively seeking such novels but if I like a description, the form won’t turn me off.
Orchards is a good novel, written exactly in the tone one would expect from a teen who has to deal with a tragedy, and a tragedy in which she was a participant. Except observing and in a way discovering her Japanese heritage, Kana also comes to terms with the present and grows up in the book.
There’s gentleness of d
Mar 28, 2015 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 17, 2011 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. ...more
Apr 21, 2011 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. ...more
Jul 15, 2011 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.
Jan 27, 2013 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!
Jan 18, 2021 rated it did not like it
Review #6 of 2021:

**CW: suicide**

I read this book on the recommendation of a colleague. This was two-stars for me, until the ending. Here's the premise of the book: After a bullied classmate hangs herself, a half-Japanese, half-Jewish American student named Kana is sent to live in Japan with her mother's family, in the hopes that it will take her mind off her friend's suicide - and then (this is from the back of the book) "news from home sends her world spinning out of orbit all over again."

Feb 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: ya, poetry, fiction
This verse novel caught my attention because its eighth grade protagonist, Kana, is half-Japanese and half-Jewish, and I was intrigued to read of her. As you read, you uncover details piece by piece of what happened to her friend Ruth, as well as the fallout's effects on Kana and her community. It's a quality read, and a tender one. ...more
Lil' Violet
Aug 31, 2011 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
cynthia ✨
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really like how human the main character is, but... that's about it. I lost interest a few chapters into the story and didn't feel very motivated to keep reading. ...more
Jun 08, 2010 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
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
According to the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, 28% of U.S. students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying. In surveys, 30% of young people admit to bullying others. In addition, a study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying and that 10 to 14 year old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide. As the social hierarchy intensifies in middle school, girls form cliques and can get meaner. PBS Parenting ...more
usagi ☆ミ
When I saw this book at the library, I knew I just had to read it. I love fiction that’s written in free verse (“Sharp Teeth” would be the best example of this that I’ve encountered so far) – it’s rare to find, but even rarer to find within the confines of YA fiction alone. “Sharp Teeth”, meet your new rival, “Orchards”.

This book deals with several issues all at once – being bicultural, bullying, suicide, and death. And I usually try to avoid books like these because there is rarely a new voices
Briana Hyon
Feb 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Kana Goldberg is a half Japanese half Jewish-American girl who has just finished 8th grade. She is sent to Japan for summer vacation, only thing is that it’s not for vacation. She is sent to live in her mother’s ancestral home, after Ruth, a classmate, hangs herself from a tree in an orchard. She is not the only one that is sent away, the other girls in 8th grade are also sent away from each other, to reflect on their behavior and emotions. Kana believes that it is not fair, insisting that she ...more
Apr 04, 2011 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
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teen, gush-worthy, 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
Thompson, H. (2011). Orchards. New York: Delacorte Press.

Summary: Kana Goldberg, the eighth grade main character, is shipped off to Japan to spend the summer with family upon the demand of her parents after the unthinkable happened to her classmate: Her classmate commits suicide. Her parents thought it was best that she get away to think about what she and her friends did to contribute to the situation. In this book written in verse, the author leads her readers through the aftermath of her clas
Mar 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
I remember seeing Orchards by Holly Thompson on a few blogs I followed. Attracted by the lovely cover but more so intrigued by the plot, I decided to get a copy. When my copy arrived, I was a little surprised to find that it was written in free verse instead of a novel format. Since I have never read a book written in free verse (well they remind me of poetry, kind of) and given that the book I was reading then didn't intrigue me much, I decided to jump into it.

Half-Japanese and half-Jewish Ame
Jul 22, 2015 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
Mrs. Fisher
Mar 14, 2017 rated it liked it
After a classmate commits suicide, Kana Goldberg 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 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
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: 12- up
Written in free verse this story was short but sweet and took me little time to read. I loved the ups and downs and the especially descriptive and thoughtful writing. This was a very inspirational story of learning, acceptance, kindness, and possibility. I liked this book because it was moving and personally, sad. This book really warmed my heart because it shows how she feels about the girl in her class who commited suicide. She goes to he family's orange orchard in Japan and constantly avoids ...more
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In Orchards you see a young girl named kana travel to Japan for the summer to work at her family's orchards after on of her classmates commits the summer goes on she recalls the time she could have help Ruth and the memories of the year before. She also get email and from her old friends. Over all this book is mostly about rediscovery.

For this book I recommend it to young adults because of some of the things in the book. First you need to watch for the language. Twice in the book ther
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JPL YA Reading Ch...: Novel in verse 1 4 Apr 29, 2013 02:23PM  
UWCSEA English/Li...: Suicide in middle school novels? 3 24 Nov 04, 2012 06:08PM  

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Holly Thompson ( is a longtime resident of Japan originally from Massachusetts. 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 One Wave at a Time, Twilight Chant and The Wakame Gatherers and ...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…