The Orchard

Ecco: HarperCollins. Nov. 2020. 480p. ISBN 9780062974747. $27.99. F
DEBUT The child of an ultraconservative Jewish upbringing in Brooklyn, Ari is transported to an affluent “modern conservative” Jewish community in south Florida for his senior year in high school. He is welcomed by neighbor and schoolmate Evan, which allows him entrance into the “cool kids on campus” clique; Evan, a rebellious intellectual teen, is its charismatic leader and can convince his crowd (and almost everyone else) to believe and do almost anything. The death of his mother the previous year has put Evan in a precarious mental state, but no one seems to notice. Ari struggles to adapt to his new life, experimenting with new ideas and experiencing high teenage angst. He feels pressured to follow along with Evan’s schemes, even things he knows are wrong and even after it is clear that Evan is unhinged. The inevitable tragedy that results represents a coming of age that no one wants.
VERDICT Though Hopen presents a somewhat formulaic story of the journey from child to adult, he renders it compelling by inserting discussions of Jewish and other religious traditions and making mental health—or lack thereof
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