In Manhattan, Kanako Goldberg says she is “Japlish,” part Russian Jewish, part Japanese, and she tries hard to make it into her eighth-grade’s in-crowd. Then Ruth, a bipolar classmate, hangs herself, and Kanako’s parents send her to spend the summer working on her grandparents’ fruit farm in a Japanese village, where she confronts her guilt about following her bitchy classmate’s behavior, and she talks to Ruth in her head. The story is purposive, and readers may be slowed by the long, detailed passages about local culture. But Kanako’s urgent teen voice, written in rapid free verse and illustrated with occasional black-and-white sketches, will hold readers with its nonreverential family story. Kanako’s bossy grandmother is no sweet comfort, always nagging Kanako about her big butt, but she does give good advice about comforting friends back home. The spare poetry about place (“silent / as the night shadow / climbs Mount Fuji”) mixes with jokes about giving spirits GPS-activated cell phones, and readers will want to talk about the big issues, especially the guilt of doing nothing. Grades 7-10. --Hazel Rochman
Starred Review, School Library Journal, March 2011:
"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."From the Hardcover edition.