This Willow won’t weep…yet

Willow by Julia Hoban; published by Dial Books, a member of the Penguin Group, New York, 2009; 329 pages.

Willow killed her parents, plain and simple; at least to her, it’s clear cut.  They were out to dinner, her parents wanted a second bottle of wine, and had her drive home in the pouring rain, and she only had her learner’s permit.  She survived the fatal crash, or did she?  Now she lives with her brother David, his wife, Cathy, and their baby, Isabelle.  In addition to her school obligations, high school junior Willow also works part-time at the university library.  One fateful afternoon, she meets Guy.  That is the turning point in her life.  They have so much in common…and an unusual bond.  Willow has learned to cope with her survivor’s guilt by cutting, and Guy finds out early in their friendship.  Although he feels responsible for her safety (he thinks she has been trying to commit suicide), Willow learns to trust him, care for him, and even allow him to bear some of the burden she feels.  As the book ends, she is able to cry (something that the cutting was meant to stifle) and to love again.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and the insight into a cutter’s mind, I thought the character of Guy was too good to be true.  However, in order to move the story along, I can understand that the author chose a single character to fulfill most of her protagonist’s needs; but will teen girls understand that this is not a typical situation?  In some regards, this book reminds me of the Twilight series in its unrealistic and unhealthy portrayal of relationships.  But Willow offers so much more, including a believable teen heroine.  Even if Guy is a bit too knight-in-shining-armor, the story of the lifestyle of a cutter is very interesting.  Another issue I had with the book was, I believe, my own problem.  I’ve read so many YA books lately that are written journal-style, from the protagonists’ point of view, that this third-person limited narrative was hard to adjust to.  I felt that sometimes the narrative was forced.  Perhaps writing the novel from Willow’s point of view would have overcome that issue; as it was, Willow was the focal character.

The theme of cutting worked its way into the cover art and the chapter headings.  The cover is a picture of a girl, partly hidden behind her hair, and the picture has been slashed and haphazardly reassembled.  The slashing marks are carried over at the beginning of each chapter as well.  After reading Wintergirls, I couldn’t help but compare the two stories of self-destructive behavior.  Willow‘s story flowed much easier for me; I did not stumble over piles of metaphors and similes.  However, I think Wintergirls‘ characters were more developed.  I enjoyed both books, but I think that teens, especially girls, will prefer the style and romance of Willow more.

4P     3Q     Grade Level: 8-12

willowCover Art: As stated earlier, the slashed image of the girl on the cover will definitely appeal to teens and generate interest.  In addition, the slashed type of the title on the spine was easy to read and discover from the books on the shelves.

Suggested Reading List: Keepin’ It Real (Realistic Fiction)

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