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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet


Author: Julia Hoban
Will be Released: April 2009
Publisher: Dial Books (a division of Penguin USA)

WillowSeven months ago, Willow was in a horrible accident. She was driving herself and her parents home after a night out. Her parents had had too much to drink, so asked her to drive home – through one of the worst storms of the year and Willow with only her drivers permit. The car swerved out of her control, and Willow had to witness the brutal death of both of their parents.

Now, Willow is living with her brother, his wife and their newborn child. She’s started a new school where she hasn’t made any new friends, she’s working part-time at a library to help her brother pay for their expenses, and she’s become a cutter to deal with her pain. One afternoon, while working at the library, she meets another student at her school – Guy – who is determined to help her as much as he possibly can.

Do you ever finish a book and find that you are completely unsure of how to respond to it? Even after a couple of days spent thinking about it, I’m still not sure what to think about Willow. Now, to be fair, I had a feeling that this was going to be the case before I had even started it. I was nervous about it – it could so easily go so wrong. Or it could be so enjoyable, but I would feel weird enjoying it because the subject matter is so … uncomfortable.

Hoban did a good job dealing with it. It felt like she really understood what she was writing about. If this was published about 10 years ago and I was dealing with someone who didn’t get this kind of stuff, then I would have wanted to recommend this book to them. Because it explains why a person may be depressed, it shows that it’s not something you can just decide to do or not to do, it goes into what that person may be thinking and feeling. It also shows why a person might consider cutting themselves – it never says that it is the right thing to do, or that it’s a good thing to do, but it shows sort of what the mentality might be for the person who does cut. And it can be uncomfortable getting into a character’s head where those sorts of thoughts are going on.

So it was a tough book to get through. I don’t normally like reading about that stuff at all. Depression is hard to read about as it is something I already have to deal with, and I’d rather not have to read about it if I don’t have to. But there was something about this book that drew me to it.

This book had some really good things going for it though. The secondary characters were brilliant. About half way through the book, I was worried that Guy was going to be completely one dimensional, and too perfect, but thankfully it turned out that he had a few flaws. And then there was Willow’s brother David … ah! I had a total crush on him. I wish the book had had more David in it, and that their relationship had been explored more.

And it was realistic. As I said before, it totally came across that Hoban knew what she was writing about. It felt real, how Willow jumps to her own conclusions about why David doesn’t talk to her like he used to, how Willow has such massive mood swings, how hard it is to actually care about anything, how Willow believes that letting herself feel anything other than pain is the worst thing for her … It was all just so real.

So I’m torn. I wouldn’t read it again, but I’d probably recommend it to someone… but possibly not to someone else who already deals with some of that stuff.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:26 pm January 30, 2009.
Category: Young Adult
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