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Summary

A recommended book from:

  • Entertainment Weekly
  • Electric Literature 
  • Alma 

A commanding debut and a poignant coming-of-age story about a devout Jewish high school student whose plunge into the secularized world threatens everything he knows of himself

Ari Eden’s life has always been governed by strict rules. In ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn, his days are dedicated to intense study and religious rituals, and adolescence feels profoundly lonely. So when his family announces that they are moving to a glitzy Miami suburb, Ari seizes his unexpected chance for reinvention. 

Enrolling in an opulent Jewish academy, Ari is stunned by his peers’ dizzying wealth, ambition, and shameless pursuit of life’s pleasures. When the academy’s golden boy, Noah, takes Ari under his wing, Ari finds himself entangled in the school’s most exclusive and wayward group. These friends are magnetic and defiant - especially Evan, the brooding genius of the bunch, still living in the shadow of his mother’s death. 

Influenced by their charismatic rabbi, the group begins testing their religion in unconventional ways. Soon Ari and his friends are pushing moral boundaries and careening toward a perilous future - one in which the traditions of their faith are repurposed to mysterious, tragic ends. 

Mesmerizing and playful, heartrending and darkly romantic, The Orchard probes the conflicting forces that determine who we become: the heady relationships of youth, the allure of greatness, the doctrines we inherit, and our concealed desires.

©2020 David Hopen (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers

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Profile Image for Housepants97
  • Housepants97
  • 22-11-20

Unremarkable to say the least

This unnecessarily long story follows a kid with zero personality from a super Jewish upbringing in Brooklyn to a slightly less but still incredibly Jewish upbringing in Miami.

I’m like 9 hours in and Ari, for some reason, has managed to suffer zero consequences from his parents, doesn’t get straight A’s but is still smart enough to get special treatment, and is automatically accepted by the popular kids without hesitation even tho he’s totally square and completely uninteresting. Is he hot? That’s the only reason I can think of as to why the cool kids like him, but unfortunately I have no idea of what any of his physical features are.

Oh right, he also has a crush on an exceptional girl who— watch out— likes him back. Oh the humanity.

Good writing? Yes. Excellent in fact.
Good storytelling? No.

I’d like to know why the author felt like this story had to be told? I’m thinking, “Maybe it’s meant as Jewish literature” but I’m Jewish!

Pass on this. Disappointing.

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  • eddie M.
  • 29-11-20

Touching and thoughtful

This beautifully written book perfectly captures what it is like to be both a part of a community and feel separated from it. I could not put this book down from the moment I started. Having grown up in a world similar to that of the book, I am amazed by how perfectly Hopen captures the experience of living in the modern-orthodox Jewish world and then manages to take off from there and create a beautiful narrative world. This book is exciting, thoughtful, and beautifully written. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

1 person found this helpful