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Book review: Young Mormon love, bad timing come to life in 'The Orchard'

"THE ORCHARD," by Krista Lynne Jensen, Covenant Communciations, $15.99, 245 pages (f)

Teenage fiction authors have found a niche in spinning Jane Austen’s timeless romances, and Krista Lynne Jensen’s delicate adaptation of “Persuasion” enlightens the genre.

Jensen’s gentle storytelling in “The Orchard” matches her heroine, Alisen — a vulnerable, impressionable 19-year-old girl trying to decide where she wants her life to take her. The one thing she holds on to his her mother’s cherry orchard. It’s a safe haven from the contentious relationship with her father that disintegrated once her mother died.

Then the orchard brought her Derick, a charming farm boy with big dreams with an interest in Alisen’s upkeep of the land. From there, a whirlwind romance ensnared Alisen and she suddenly found herself side by side with the missing piece of her heart.

Alisen and Derick’s relationship is eager and perhaps too quick for comfort. However, Jensen paints a picture of two compatible and virtuous young adults, both experiencing what it’s like to love and feel.

Though it’s perfect at first, complications arise once Derick’s religious background is brought to the foreground. Unlike many novels written for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that are chock-full with cheesy clichés and church language, “The Orchard” is splattered with subtle hints — like Derick serving a two-year mission and a family friend who didn't drink alcohol — making it relatable for audiences across the board.

Jensen then confronts common perceptions of those outside of the church, specifically in Alisen’s father retaliating against her relationship with Derick because she wanted to be baptized. Therein lies the parallel to “Persuasion.” Alisen, though happy and in love, allows herself to be swayed from both Derick and her newfound dedication to the LDS Church.

Though the romance abruptly ends, the story continues to unfold as a personal journey for each of the main characters as they come together and mend broken relationships. When confronted with Derick after years of living in regret for letting him go, Alisen is forced to face her demons and come to terms with how she feels.

“The Orchard” is a clean, teen-friendly novel without violence, swearing or any sexual content. Jensen’s unique approach to a young LDS audience is unique and refreshing. The littering of clues, values and gospel doctrine throughout the pages doesn’t weigh down the plot, but helps further develop the characters’ personalities.

Though the writing and flow of the pages fits perfectly with Alisen’s demeanor and personality, it’s often too delicate and lacks a command of the plot. However, her interesting take on “Persuasion” is a welcomed, beautifully crafted and fresh addition to the Jane Austen adaptation genre.