The Children’s Book Review | November 25, 2014
The Orphan of Torundi
By J. L. McCreedy
Age Range: 15 and up
Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: Penelope Pipp Publishing (November 28, 2014)
What to expect: Orphan, Boarding School, Romance, Adventure
Seventeen year-old Sam Clemens doesn’t exactly lead a typical teenage life—since being orphaned from birth she’s lived in the rainforest of Torundi and worked with a mission group—but’s it’s a normal life if it’s the only one you’ve ever known. And Sam’s perfectly happy with it.
When Sam is forced to leave Torundi and attend an American boarding school in Malaysia, she’s determined to find a way to head home, and fast. Surrounded by teenagers who don’t own church-lady clothes and who seem to be able to navigate their way around senior year life with ease, Sam realizes that the life she’s led may not have been so normal and she’s way out of her depth. But that’s not even the start of it.
While Sam fumes over her unexplained exile—an exile she puts down to an unfortunate incident with a Clouded Leopard and the fact that she’s no longer a child—she discovers that her removal from Torundi is connected to a power-hungry cooperation with dire designs on her home island. Sam’s used to misunderstandings in her life—for one, she’s named after a famous male writer—but this is no misunderstanding.
Sam can’t sit back and do nothing. While she once longed to escape her boarding school existence and return to Torundi, now Sam finds herself running away from the life she thought she knew and hurtling towards the truth: a truth that has dire consequences for her mission family, one that questions the trust she’s placed in an infuriatingly hot boy she’s met, one that could destroy Torundi—a truth that puts her life in serious danger.
The Orphan of Torundi delivers all the key ingredients for a successful young adult novel. Romance, fast adventure, and a believable landscape blend together for a consuming read with a strong protagonist. From page one, Sam’s voice draws you into her world: she’s feisty, smart, and undeniably relatable, despite her unique upbringing. While the reader may or may not know how to wield a machete (and we’re kind of hoping that they don’t), or make soap from candlenuts, Sam is emotionally real and in tune with any teenager.
Most of all, what sets The Orphan of Torundi apart from so many of its YA counterparts is it’s captivatingly complex —not complicated—story. While Sam’s reality may be far removed from many of ours, it’s still a thoroughly believable reality. We’re grounded in a situation that allows the reader to imagine themselves in Sam’s (practical leather hiking) shoes. There’s no need for fantastical thrills: a gritty adventure stands firm and propels the reader into a world where traded secrets have more impact than the normal teenage gossip of who’s-going-to-the-Christmas-Ball-with-who.
A vivid landscape, a refreshingly unique plot and a lovable protagonist will keep you rooted to the story from the very first page. Surprising twists, and a heart-in-mouth romance take this novel beyond your average Young Adult read: all will rejoice in the turbulent adventure Sam takes the reader on.
Add this book to your collection: The Orphan of Torundi
About the Author
J.L. MCCREEDY was born in New Jersey, grew up in Indonesia and Malaysia, graduated law school in Mississippi and currently lives in Borneo. She is also the author of LIBERTY FRYE AND THE WITCHES OF HESSEN and THE ORPHAN OF TORUNDI.
Please visit her at www.TongaTime.com.
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