Rated Reads

Willow

by Julia Hoban

Rated: High

Willow has done the unthinkable: seven months ago, she was driving her parents home in a rainstorm when she lost control of the car, totaling it and killing both of her parents instantly. That she is grief-stricken is an understatement: she is terrified of facing the grief and so has taken to cutting. The physical pain of the razor slicing her skin is, for her, much more bearable than the emotional pain of dealing with her parents’ death. So she goes about in a haze, cutting herself when things get too bad.

Many teen books deal with tough issues, death being only one among them. And these books address the teens’ dealing with the pain of loss in many different ways. But this is the first time I’d read one where the main character dealt with the pain in such an obviously addicting and destructive behavior. It was painful for me, as the reader, to see such obvious pain in a person, and yet be nearly powerless to do anything about it.

Because on top of being grief-stricken, Willow is a terribly unreliable narrator. Sure, the book is written in third-person present tense (which usually drives me nuts), but we’re seeing things from Willow’s perspective. And, as I could tell more and more as the book went on, Willow is wantonly misinterpreting almost everything around her. It makes the cutting more powerful, and the reader more helpless.

Thankfully, though, there is Guy. I usually cringe when a main character — especially a girl — has to rely upon another so heavily in order to fix her own problems. However, in this instance, it works perfectly. Willow, because she sees the world so skewed, needs someone to pull her out of it, and Guy — whom Hoban creates as caring and sweet but anything but perfect — is the perfect person to do just that. It makes for a very touching, if complicated, love story.

Even though the book has an open-ended conclusion, the trip is completely worth the effort.

Rated: High, for strong language, and a (surprisingly tasteful) teenage sex scene

— Reviewed by Melissa Fox

Melissa Madsen Fox's blogging career began in 2004 when she started Book Nut. Reading, reviewing and book blogging have taken over what's left of her life after being a stay-at-home mom to four rambunctious daughters and wife to a slightly- absent-minded professor of political science.

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  • Willow
  • by Julia Hoban
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: