Written by Julia Hoban
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Dial (April 2, 2009)
Willow’s life has changed a great deal in the last seven months. She lives with her brother, his wife and baby girl. She goes to a new school. She has no friends. She’s failing miserably in school, but she just can’t find it in herself to care. It is all she can do to make it to the next day; why be bothered with reading Bullfinch’s Mythology, writing papers, and studying up on her French?Her parents are dead. And it’s all her fault.
One night, Willow and her parents went out for dinner. Her parent’s had too much wine and, even thought Willow only had her learner’s permit, they make her drive home. It was during a terrible storm. Willow lost control of the car and she lost both her parents. Now, Willow can’t deal with the emotional pain of what she’s done and finds that by inflicting physical pain upon herself, cutting herself with a razor blade, it helps keep all that pain fade away, makes it more manageable. It helps her cope
Willow is so lost. She feels she has no one to talk to. She is convinced her brother blames her and hates her for what she did to her parents and that he resents her for her intrusion into his life. She refuses to talk to her best friend from back home. She hasn’t made any new friends at her new school; she only embarrasses herself when she talks to someone. She doesn’t know what to do, but refuses to ask for help.
Then she meets Guy.
And Guy finds out her secret.
Willow is a beautifully written book. Hoban doesn’t pull punches with pain, suffering, confusion and remorse. Yet she never forgets the love, compassion, and commiseration we feel for others. While Willow is in such exquisite pain, we see those around her reach out for her. Her sister-in-law leaves her a note after a particularly ugly fight with her brother. Guy waits for her day after day, to check on her, to make sure she’s okay. He gives her his cellphone number. He takes it upon himself to care for this scared, hurt stranger BECAUSE HE CARES. Even her brother gives little overtures of love; even if Willow fails to see them. The nuances in the writing Hoban shows with this novel are wonderful; I would have never believed this was a first novel. There is one scene in particular, and if you’ve read this book you might know what I mean, that is particularly masterful and was pivotal in Willow’s path to healing.
What surprised and touched me most was the gorgeous ending. It was perfect for a book like this and something I admire the author greatly for. I will go no further for fear of spoilers, but I strongly encourage you to take up this book and give it a read. It is worth every second it takes to read it.
If you are or someone you know is having trouble dealing with pain and are resulting to cutting (or any other destructive behaviors) please, I encourage you to get help. Boys Town National Hotline, 1.800.448.3000, serves as a crisis helpline for people all over the country. Every year, their highly trained counselors help more than 450,000 people with problems ranging from depression and drugs to anger and abuse, and much more.
This was a co-read with Melissa the Book Nut and Kailana of The Written World. We agreed to each pose a question to each other. Here is my question to them, with my response. See their blogs for their questions to me.
I am a huge fan of the cover. Do you think the cover gives an accurate description of the book? How so?
I am, too, actually. I’m not sure that’s exactly what I pictured Willow as looking like, but I liked the rips across the cover. At first glance, it’s an intriguing cover: without knowing anything, one wonders why exactly those rips are there, and what do they mean. Then, after reading the book, it becomes very symbolic — it’s both the brokenness of Willow as well as her cutting – which makes it very powerful.
I really liked the cover, too! It really seems to convey a sense of emotion, but you don’t necessarily know what it is all about until you read Willow’s story and then it is Willow. In a time where book covers are getting some abuse because they are not very good representations of the books; I think that this one was handled really well. Willow is hiding from the world, essentially, and with the hair falling down in front of her face in the cover that is what it looks like she is doing.
I love the cover. I love everything about the cover. From the slightly turned away face of Willow to the jagged rips down the picture, I think it is perfect for this book. I especially like how the overlapping tear towards the center of her face also looks slightly like a tear track. The cover illustrates not only Willow’s need to cut to control her emotions, but just how much her emotions are literally tearing her apart. It’s a powerful image.
~ A few other reviews~
YA Reads | S. Krishna’s Books | Look At That Book | All Five Stars | Shooting Stars Mag | The Compulsive Reader
Beth Fish Reads | Presenting Lenore | Dissecting Perfection | Frenetic Reader | Pop Culture Junkie
The Story Siren | Harmony Book Reviews | Reviewer X | and more…