10 September 2009

Review: Willow by Julia Hoban

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
ISBN-13: 9780803733565
Challenges: Support Your Library, 999, 100+
YTD: 68

Rating: A+


Veens 9/10/09, 7:27 AM  

This one sounds scary! The feeling of having accidentally killed your parents ... to live with it... Horrific :(

That was an awesome review.. i will most surely look out for this one here!

bermudaonion 9/10/09, 8:24 AM  

I'm going to dig this out of my TBR pile right now! I can't wait to read your interview with the author!

Jen - Devourer of Books 9/10/09, 8:29 AM  

Oh, this sounds really sad and lovely.

Julie P. 9/10/09, 8:50 AM  

I desperately want to read this book. I've heard so many good things about it!

Serena 9/10/09, 9:14 AM  

this sounds like an engaging novel. thanks for the review.

Thoughts of Joy 9/10/09, 9:24 AM  

I'm really looking forward to reading this. It's exciting to see an A+!

Unknown 9/10/09, 9:25 AM  

It is always great to have another audio book to add to the pile. This book does sound like the sort of thing I'd really like. I look forward to finding out more tomorrow.

kay - Infinite Shelf 9/10/09, 9:55 AM  

Great review! Willow is on my list of books I'd like to read in, hopefully, a close future. It sounds really great!

Molly 9/10/09, 10:02 AM  

Oh my goodness -- how can I not read this book now after this glowing review!

Beth Kephart 9/10/09, 10:08 AM  

Thank you so much for this, Beth F. I've read many good things and also have a good feeling about this author.

JoAnn 9/10/09, 11:10 AM  

Your enthusiasm comes through loud and clear! Just listened to a sample at audible, and it sounds great...on the wish list it goes.

Anonymous,  9/10/09, 11:13 AM  

It's quite something to get such a wonderful review -- especially when the review itself is so well written! I can't thank you enough for your kind (and beautifully expressed) words!

Julia (WILLOW) Hoban

Nise' 9/10/09, 12:00 PM  

I am waiting for this one at the library! We would be surprised at how many people (of all ages) we know that use this behavior as a means to cope. Wonderful review!

Sandy Nawrot 9/10/09, 12:40 PM  

Really an excellent review...if you had not been so specific that this book isn't a downer, I would have been more doubtful about picking it up. The premise sounds heartbreaking...it wasn't even the girl's fault to begin with! Unfortunately our library does not have it on audio, but will try to track down the actual book.

Margot at Joyfully Retired 9/10/09, 12:40 PM  

I like the way you described this book. Now I see the value of it. I will be back for the interview.

Unknown 9/10/09, 2:13 PM  

this is another I've heard really good things about, that I'm going to have to add to my wishlist...

The cover looks perfect too!

Alix 9/10/09, 7:02 PM  

I'd heard of this book and didn't want to read it but your excellent review has changed my mind. Thanks I'll be adding it to my list.

Alea 9/10/09, 7:10 PM  

I'm so glad you read this and REALLY glad you loved it as much as I did! :D

Melody 9/10/09, 8:07 PM  

I've added this book to my wishlist ever since I've heard several good reviews about it. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Beth! Thanks for the lovely review!

Belle 9/10/09, 8:26 PM  

This is too intense for me, but your review is lovely.

Anonymous,  9/10/09, 8:44 PM  

It sounds pretty intense.

Jenn's Bookshelves 9/10/09, 9:29 PM  

Wow! This will be the next book I buy. It's been on my "wish list" forever, but after reading your review, I'm adding it to my "must buy now" list!

kayerj 9/11/09, 10:13 AM  

I've seen a lot of favorable reviews for this book. yours was a nice write up.

S. Krishna 9/11/09, 5:14 PM  

I loved this book as well. Your review really did it justice, very nice!

Ladytink_534 9/11/09, 11:01 PM  

Sounds like something Laurie Halse Anderson may have written. Interesting!

Unknown 10/7/09, 4:43 PM  

I've seen this one at the store and been intrigued...but always pasted...now I'm sure I'll pick up a copy!

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