One evening, the Randalls decide to drink just one more glass of wine with dinner. Good thing their daughter, Willow, has her learners' permit so she can drive home. But the sixteen-year-old is not experienced enough to drive through a deluge. When she wakes up in the hospital, she remembers only images and smells . . . and the fact that she killed her parents.
In just one instant, Willow's ivory-tower existence in an academic family was shattered as completely as the car's windshield. Seven months later, she is living someone else's life: staying with her brother and sister-in-law, going to a new high school, and indulging in secret behavior. The old Willow no longer exists. The new Willow struggles in school and knows only one way to stop the guilt, ease the pain, and turn off her memory; all it takes is a razor blade.
Julia Hoban's characters and plotting are so real that nothing in the novel seems out of place, and I found myself fully immersed in Willow's world. The book takes a frank and unjudgmental look at how a person could find comfort in the act of cutting herself with a razor. But don't be misled into thinking Willow is not for you.
Willow is lost because she has no one to talk to and no one to trust. She cannot turn to her brother because she knows she is the source of all his pain and all his sadness. She cannot turn to her former best friend because she reminds Willow of an existence that has vanished. Then Willow has a chance meeting with Guy, a senior at her new school who, because of his interests, is not quite a stranger but is not yet a friend. He is an in-between person for her in-between life. What can a seventeen-year-old possibly do for a troubled girl?
Willow is not a depressing book. It's a startlingly realistic look at what can happen when we feel separated from our own world. It's about connections and trust. Hoban does not pretend to offer magic solutions; instead, she gives us much to think about and discuss.
Willow is a must-read novel. I am not surprised that it was nominated by the American Library Association for Best Book for Young Adults.
I listened the audio version of Willow, narrated by Kim J. Ulrich. Ulrich is a new to me narrator, but I wouldn't hesitate to listen to anything she read. The audio production was excellent.
Please be sure to stop back tomorrow for an interview with author Julia Hoban and a closer look at some of the themes discussed in Willow.
Published by Penguin USA, 2009
Challenges: Support Your Library, 999, 100+