Willow by Julia Hoban

I've said it before, but I'm not a huge fan of contemporary YA books. For some reason I find many books in this genre to be trite and surprisingly 'dumbed down' for its intended audience. Teens are not stupid. On the contrary, they always know when they are being preached at or when a story has been slapped together.

Thankfully, there are a select few contemporary YA novels that I do find myself recommending over and over again. These are the startling, unexpected finds that speak to the reader on a variety of issues and levels. Books that contain teens experiencing such honesty of emotion that I can't help but be immediately drawn to. There's not many on that elite list, but today I'd like to add another book to it.

Willow doesn't cut because she is stressed about school. She doesn't cut herself because she's worried about being too fat, too tall, too... too... Willow is a cutter because she was the driver in a disastrous car accident that killed her anthropology professor parents seven months ago. Hiding behind a wall of grief and guilt that threatens to overtake her constantly, Willow now finds refuge in the pain she causes herself while effectively cutting off the entire world outside. She's become a shadow of her former happy self. One who merely floats through school, has no friends, and who cannot even hold a semi-normal conversation with her older brother David who she now lives with. But then she meets Guy while working at the university library and everything is...different. Unlike anyone Willow has ever met, Guy is not only interested in her beloved yet now forgotten subject of anthropology but he is interested in her. And her scars.

I'll go ahead and start by saying that Willow was in no way an easy read. Willow's story is stark and unflinchingly honest in every respect. But at the same time, I found it to be gentle, private, and highly personal. Willow was actually quite beautiful in its starkness. What has to be the genius of Julia Hoban's startling narrative is the lack of sensationalism ascribed to Willow's cutting disorder. Throughout the entire novel, I never once felt like a voyeur ogling a wreck on the side of the road or like I was reading a how-to handbook. Willow's quiet and comfortably open conversations with Guy revealed such a profound, contained grief that I was helpless to do anything but silently urge her forward. Because ultimately, Willow is not a book about cutting. It's a book about relationships and the healing capabilities of love. It's a fabulous read and one I've already started to recommend.

Be sure to check back Friday for a special interview with the marvy author of Willow, Julia Hoban!!

Because Everyone Loves a Second Opinion:
Angieville review 
Book Addiction review
Persnickety Snark review
Presenting Lenore review & interview
The Story Siren review
yaReads review

book source: provided by the publicist


Lenore Appelhans said...

Love your take on this!

Angiegirl said...

I'm so glad you read this one! I haven't stopped thinking about it since I read it. Willow and Guy come back to me at the oddest times.

Jill of The O.W.L. said...

I've had this book for a little while, but shy away from it because I know it's gonna be a hard read. One of these days I just need to start. I've hearding nothing but good. Thanks for the review!

Michelle said...

Lenore - I loved your review and interview too!

Angie - It's one that just sticks with doesn't it? And I'm liking Guy muy mucho.

Jill - Oh you must start in! Immediately! It's one of those you actually feel good about upon finishing because it was written so nicely.

April (BooksandWine) said...

I have a copy of this as well and seriously need to crack it open sometime. Fabulous review :-)