Synopses & Reviews
Benjamin arrives with his parents for a tour of Roaring Orchards, a therapeutic boarding school tucked away in upstate New York. Suddenly, his parents are gone and Benjamin learns that he is there to stay. Sixteen years old, a two-time failed suicide, Benjamin must navigate his way through a new world of morning meds, popped privileges, candor meetings and cartoon brunches--all run by adults who themselves have yet to really come of age.
The only person who comprehends the school's many rules and rituals is Aubrey, the founder and headmaster. Fragile, brilliant, and prone to rage, he is as likely to use his authority to reward students as to punish them. But when Aubrey falls ill, life at the school begins to unravel. Benjamin has no one to rely on but the other students, especially Tidbit, an intriguing but untrustworthy girl with a "self-afflicting personality." More and more, Benjamin thinks about running away from Roaring Orchards--but he feels an equal need to know just what it is he would be leaving behind.
"Roaring Orchards, a boarding school in upstate New York for troubled teens, is the setting of Josefson's debut novel, which is full of characters (both students and teachers), groups (Alternative Girls; Regular Kids), rules, and schedules. Josefson offers a map with every Roaring Orchards building labeled, a specific, defined (and confined) geography. He's created a microcosm, led by the idiosyncratic headmaster Aubrey, a man with severe unspecified health and psychological problems who thrives on creating rules and bizarre special designations, and shepherds offbeat therapeutic activities like 'psychic mending,' in which participants play a variety of individuals in a student's life. Combine leader Aubrey with the rural microcosm and the feeling that those in charge are just as crazy as the individuals they're in charge of, and it's hard not to think of Animal Farm. Josefson writes with a similar ironic detachment to Orwell's parable, but there's no sense of authorial omniscience, just precise, detailed descriptions. Given the emotional issues of the students (and to a lesser extent the teachers), Josefson's cool, measured prose at first comes as a surprise. But it soon becomes clear that the students Lauren, who regularly cuts herself; Tidbit, who takes all varieties of dangerous drugs; sometimes narrator Benjamin, who has multiple suicide attempts in his past are all emotionally disconnected from their inner turbulence and the style makes sense. A promising if not fully realized effort." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Dan Josefson has received a Fulbright research grant and a Schaeffer Award from the International Institute of Modern Letters. He has an MFA from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He lives in Brooklyn, and works at a book club for children's literature.