Seven months ago, on a rainy March night, sixteen-year- old Willow’s parents drank too much wine and asked her to drive them home. They never made it. Willow lost control of the car and her parents died in the accident. Now she has left behind her old home, friends, and school, and blocks the pain by secretly cutting herself. But when Willow meets Guy, a boy as sensitive and complicated as she is, she begins an intense, life-changing relationship that turns her world upside down.

Told in an arresting, fresh voice, Willowis an unforgettable novel about one girl’s struggle to cope with tragedy, and one boy’s refusal to give up on her.

The Phoenix’s Perspective

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first opened Willow, but I can definitely say I was presently surprised.

In the same vein as books like Wintergirls and if i stay, Willow covers a very serious topic from the point of view of the person living through the struggle.  The main character, Willow, is the sole survivor of the car accident that killed both of her parents.  Due to unforeseen circumstances, she was the one behind the wheel when the accident occurred.  As a result, she feels responsible for it and has condemned herself as a killer.  To deal with the struggle, she has resorted to cutting as her drug of choice. Instead of working through the emotions building up inside of her, Willow has chosen to keep them buried deep within —- if she doesn’t show them, then maybe they won’t actually cause her pain. Every time the emotions/pain threaten to come to the surface, she pushes everything back down with a razor blade.

Living with her brother should make cutting complicated, but it doesn’t really. He is also struggling with grief and the overwhelming responsibility of now being a “parent” to a teenager. He tries so hard to make sure that she is “ok” that he doesn’t see it happening in front of him.  No one does — that is until she meets Guy. After seeing her “supplies,” Guy puts two-and-two together to realize what is going on.  Although it is not his burden to bear, he does not feel right leaving her to carry this weight alone.

Through their interactions, the reader is able to really delve into the mind of an addict and try to understand its inner workings. For me, one of the most startling discoveries was the idea of intimacy. So many of us envision the private and intense connection of intimacy as something we can only share with another person.  Willow introduces us to another notion — the idea of sharing her coping mechanism with another personal is for her the highest form of intimacy (even higher than a sexual encounter).

It was also incredible to watch Willow analyze her interactions with others. Her reactions to others were always a clear reminder of how she viewed herself. Every interaction had to have some fault in it and that fault always connected back to the accident somehow.  Willow felt as if she was full of holes and those holes were always exposed for all to see and critique.  Hoban did an amazing job at showing the read that it is possible to slowly replace those empty feelings – the holes – with new, better ones.  We may never be able to completely erase the feeling of grief, but we don’t have to let it consume every aspect of our lives.

Would I add it to the library?

I am so glad that I read this book and hope that Julia Hoban continues writing books of this theme – she does an amazing job!


Genre: Fiction – emotional abuse, physical abuse, suicide, death
ISBN: 9780142416662
Rating:  good

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