To find the truth, she must first uncover the lie ….
Orphaned as an infant, Sam is raised by a pharmaceutical research mission in the rain forests of Torundi. She wields a mean machete, makes soap from candlenuts and is a fairly astute amateur entomologist. You know, the normal stuff. But a month before her seventeenth birthday, she is exiled to an American boarding school in Penang, Malaysia.
Armed with little more than her unusual upbringing and church-lady clothes, Sam must contend with her new existence as the world's most socially unprepared high school senior. Well that’s just fine. Because Sam is determined to solve the mystery behind her banishment and return home tout de suite.
But when she discovers the unthinkable – that her banishment is tied to an enigmatic corporation with illicit designs on Torundi – she realizes the real mystery she must uncover is ... why? Soon, Sam is caught in a whirlwind of intrigue, danger and greed. As she chases this thread of truth to its end, she unravels a plot that threatens her beloved home, her trust in the boy she has grown to love and her own existence.
Blending espionage elements akin to The Bourne Identity with those awkward high-school moments (hey, it could happen), THE ORPHAN OF TORUNDI is a quirky, cross-cultural tale of adventure, self-discovery and romance.
"The themes of big business and the destruction of natural resources for monetary gain will resonate with everyone who cares about our planet's future. Sam's struggle to save the place and the people she loves may be fiction, but similar situations arise all the time in the real world....
"The characters are detailed and believable. The settings are lush and exotic. The mystery is intriguing. The plot is complex and ultimately believable. In short, this is a perfect book." AmiesBookReviews
"This is a beautifully written novel. The characters are rich and full, the settings are lush and real and the story is beautiful and surprising all at the same time. It is the kind of novel that you can't put down because you know that there is something there that you can't quite figure out and don't want to stop until you do. Even though this is a YA work, it is not dumbed down and as an adult I enjoyed it very much. I cannot wait to read more from this talented author." Stephanie, Goodreads
“[I]t’s intrigue and espionage writing at its best.... [W]ith its sweeping descriptions and involving protagonist, readers can expect to hop on board the departing train of adventure for an invigorating, can't-put-it-down ride.”
“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.” The Children’s Book Review.
"Life, for some, is anything but ordinary: Sam was orphaned as an infant, grew up on a pharmaceutical research mission in the rain forests of Torundi (where she learned to harvest local resources and identify local flora and fauna), and is sent to an American boarding school in Malaysia upon turning seventeen.
It's there that her life really begins to evolve (or, unravel: take your pick) as she searches for the reason why she was banished from her beloved rainforest home, only to uncover corporate greed and manipulation lies behind her exile.
Suddenly it's more than personal (and even more than political): it's one teenager on the cusp of adulthood fighting for her beloved home, and it's suddenly intrigue and espionage writing at its best.
Why 'at its best'? Because any good thriller is cemented early on by solid psychology and characterization; and (more so than most) The Orphan of Torundi demonstrates the importance of these devices by creating a well-rounded protagonist whose blossoming love, passion for home, and confusion over her life's course and its origins become entwined with a bigger picture.
J.L. McCreedy achieves this depth in part because of the nature of protagonist Sam, who harbors an inquisitive nature, an innocence about adult affairs, and a passion for truth and understanding that serve as the driving forces behind her investigations.
Then, there's the cultural setting: Sam's experiences are steeped with the atmosphere and culture of Asia: "My team shrugs and climbs into their respective rickshaws. Yanto leads our procession as the two other rickshaws follow with their flickering headlights. Carriage wheels splosh in a puddle as we turn off Lebuh Chulia Street and onto Lebuh Leith, the small street signs barely lit by occasional overhead lights."
So many thrillers, whether they be adult or young adult, gloss over either setting or psychology. By placing her story in an exotic albeit believable location and making Sam's experiences a series of first-person observations, McCreedy achieves the feel and intensity of a first-rate work of art.
Another solid approach that lends to The Orphan of Torundi's strength is that readers of all ages are invited into Sam's thought process as she struggles to understand her vastly-changed world: "I think of Dr. Jean, of the days and nights we'd spend pouring over a single idea. What do we do when we don't know how to make sense of a subject? We reorganize and start at the beginning."
Many lives are anything but ordinary; but it's a challenge capturing their progression with all their psychological facets. And in the heat of thriller writing (or in writing with young adult audiences in mind), it's all too easy to become immersed in the story line without building the accompanying psychology that makes for a superior read.
That The Orphan of Torundi holds both is testimony to its strengths. Add further details on Torundi law, a deeply held secret that reaches out from beyond the grave, and a series of changes that threaten even love and you have a read that seamlessly invites readers into another world and smoothly, compellingly, immerses readers in the sounds, flavor and politics of that world: "The air smells saltier all of a sudden, the wind whips harder and the sound of the boat returns with a rumble in my ears. Far to my right, the shores of Malaysia stretch north to south; far to my left, nothing but sea."
For seventeen years Sam's life and world have seemed 'set', even with the mystery embedded in it. All that's about to change. And with its sweeping descriptions and involving protagonist, readers can expect to hop on board the departing train of adventure for an invigorating, can't-put-it-down ride." D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer, MBR