Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Willow by Julia Hoban

Seven months ago, on a rainy March night, sixteen year- old Willow's parents died in a horrible car accident. Willow was driving. Now her older brother barely speaks to her, her new classmates know her as the killer orphan girl, and Willow is blocking the pain by secretly cutting herself. But when one boy —one sensitive, soulful boy—discovers Willow's secret, it sparks an intense relationship that turns the "safe" world Willow has created for herself upside down.

Told in an extraordinary fresh voice, Willow is an unforgettable novel about one girl's struggle to cope with tragedy, and one boy's refusal to give up on her.

From Amazon.ca

My Thoughts:

This is a book that without book bloggers, I probably never would have read. Actually, this year has been made up of book-blogger inspired books. I have read more young adult fiction in the past year than I have read in all my other reading years put together. When I was a young adult, I could never find books that interested me, so I would mostly read adult novels instead. I think it is possible that book crazes like Harry Potter and Twilight have revitalized the young adult 'genre' and lead to much better books than existed even ten years ago. That is not to say there haven't always been gems hidden amongst the duds, but it seems like there are a lot more gems than there used to be. Or, maybe I am just more easy-going now. It all comes down to belonging to the library, though. If I hadn't made that decision I wouldn't have read most of the books I have read this year.

Moving on. I loved this book! I am shocked about that, actually. If you haven't noticed, most of the young adult books I have loved this year do not relate to high school. I have read some, sure, but I generally do not relate to books with that setting anymore. I have the same problem with television shows. Obviously, I did not go through what Willow went through in any capacity, but I suppose high school wasn't so long ago that I couldn't remember how hard it was to be a little different. No one even has to say anything, but if you know that there is a possibility people could look down on you for something, than you are suspicious of everyone. That's Willow's problem. Her parents are dead and she looks upon it as her fault. When people talk to her at this new school she automatically assumes they are going to ask her about it, so that is just one of the many reasons that she avoids human contact. The other reason is that she doesn't want to get close to someone again just to lose them. She has not got over the loss of her parents and is not prepared to repeat the experience.

I have to say that while I can remember what high school was like, I have never been able to understand the cutting epidemic. I actually don't know anyone that did it, but that just could be because I was never told. I suppose I understand the idea behind it, but the actual doing of it is not something that I have ever really understood. I hope that doesn't come out wrong. I am not saying that the people that resort to it do not have their reasons, I am just saying that I personally do not understand the benefits. Willow is trying to block out the pain of everything that has happened to her and that is the method that works for her. Even with that reaction, though, I thought that this book was really well-written. It is a young adult book, but I enjoyed it as an adult, too. I didn't feel like the writing was too young and even though it is about teenagers, I didn't find that I was too old to appreciate it. It will also work really well for young adults, though.

The characters were great. I felt like I really grew to know Willow, but Hoban also includes a lot of facts about the secondary characters, too. The 'guy' was really well-written. He was played in a difficult situation and I think that he was written very believably. He is like me. He knows why people do it, but doesn't really understand at the same time. He really saves Willow in many ways. This book is a bit depressing, I warn you that, but there are also a lot of happy moments mixed in. I was really surprised how much I enjoyed this book. It is not my general: 'love this book and think everyone should read it' type of read, so you know it has be good because that is my concluding opinion! Thanks to all the bloggers that brought it to my attention! I look forward to what Hoban writes next.

This was a buddy read with Heather and Melissa. I asked them this question:

Did you find the storyline relate-able even though you are an adult and the high school angst is in the past? Could you relate to the characters?

Heather said:
I did. Pain is universal; it does not discriminate age, sex, ethnicity, or anything else. We all experience pain in our lives. I have been through my share of it and the worst of it was during my youth. I never resorted to something as aggressive as cutting myself, but I did have trouble dealing with all the feelings of loss and rejection I had to deal with and, to some extent, still do. I could totally relate to the desire not to confide in someone, to refuse help, to handle it on my own - to mistakenly believe that I could handle it on my own. That is one of the most important lessons of this book; to let go, to get help, to let those who love you do just that - LOVE YOU.
Melissa said:
Hm... On the one hand, no, I couldn't relate to the characters. There was too much angst -- and not just high school angst -- for me to really connect with all of the characters. That said, I did see much of myself in Guy; I was always the stable one, the good one (still am!) who attracted broken people. So, I guess I could relate to what he was going through and feeling. Also, even though I couldn't relate, I did think it was a good portrait of addiction, and I often felt the pain that Willow was going through that drove her to her cutting. As well as the pain and healing it was going to take for her to break her addictive habits. In those ways, I think that Julia Hoban succeeded in giving us a gripping portrait.
I said:
Really, what Melissa said. Honestly! That is exactly how I feel about the question, so I won't subject you to it twice...
To read their reviews and the answers to their question, click the links above and they will take you directly there! (I am really slow. I got distracted by shiny things in the mail...)


  1. So glad I'm not the only one that felt that way, Kailana! :-) Nice review. And I totally agree: without other book bloggers I would have never picked up this book. And I'm glad I did.

  2. I thought she did a really good job with the subject matter. As a former cutter, I think she really conveyed one of the reasons why someone would do it really well.

  3. I absolutely loved this book. Is definitely one of my top reads for the year.

  4. The more reviews I read of this one the closer get gets from being a mere resident on my wishlist to actually being purchased!

  5. Excellent review and totally loved the added bonus of Melissa and Heather's thoughts too. I adored this book for many of the same reasons you did. I too was unaware of "cutting" until I started working in a middle school....

  6. I've heard a lot of great things about this book so I'm definitely adding it to my wishlist!

  7. I loved this book! I thought the supporting characters were great too. I especially liked her brother.

  8. This is the first I've heard of this title, it sounds good. Good but possibly intense?

    I knew a cutter way back when I was in high school. We went to church together. Her mom was active with the younger kids of the church. It was very painful for both of them to cope with this issue and difficult for their church family to know how to support them through their difficulty.

    TBH, I'm not sure I could read this with any distance, now that I think of it. :( Ought to be in high school libraries though.



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