Review posted January 28, 2023.
HarperAudio, 2022. 6 hours, 17 minutes.
Review written September 5, 2022, from a library eaudiobook. Starred Review
2022 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#4 General Children's Fiction
There were twelve kids in seventh grade in the small town of Fawn Creek, Louisiana. That is, there were twelve until the day that Orchid Mason showed up.
Usually the twelve seventh graders were careful to leave their faces blank and expressionless. No one wanted to be the first to admit they were excited about anything. But this -- a real-life new student, a real-life new anything -- was far more interesting than any science experiment. People from Somewhere Else just didn't come to Fawn Creek. Certainly not unannounced. The next closest thing was Mr. Agosto, who was born in Venezuela and was the only non-white face in almost every room. But he had moved to Fawn Creek when he was three years old, because his dad got a job at Gimmerton, and -- like Greyson, Dorothy, and virtually everyone else -- he had never traveled outside of south Louisiana since then. The farthest he'd gone was Baton Rouge to go to Louisiana State, and that was just two hours away. Small towns are like magnets, Greyson's mother once said. They pull you in and don't let go.
Orchid says she was born in New York City and moved to Fawn Creek from Paris. She wears a flower in her hair. Nobody knows what to make of her.
Then the two kids with the lowest social standing, Greyson and Dorothy, invite Orchid to eat with them. Orchid suggests the wildly innovative idea of taking their lunches outside. She tells the other kids stories of her travels and about her boyfriend, Victor, and her adventures with him in Paris.
But at least one kid isn't happy about Orchid's inclusion in their class. Janie used to be the most important seventh-grader in Fawn Creek, since her father ran the plant. And Janie's best friend Renni isn't happy, even though she moved from Fawn Creek to the much larger Grand Saintlodge. She's used to knowing everything about everyone and deciding who's important and who's not. When Janie tells Renni that the boy she broke up with is going to ask the new girl to the dance, Renni is not happy.
But Orchid's the most interesting person Greyson and Dorothy have ever known. They've known everyone in their class forever, and they have no surprises. But Orchid looks at things differently and helps them see things differently.
But it's not good to make an enemy of Renni.
When this book started with a story of how mean Greyson's older brother had been, pinching him and calling him a girl for not wanting to go duck hunting, I wasn't sure I'd like it. Erin Entrada Kelly is skilled at showing just how cruel families can be to one another. But in this book, although there were some painful episodes, I like the way things worked out and were resolved.
Both I and those kids from Fawn Creek are better off from having known Orchid Mason, a girl who is both imaginative and kind.