WILLOW, by Julia Hoban
Interest Level: Upper Grades
This is another one I picked up at Barnes and Noble because I was drawn to the book cover. (I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I am often guilty of it) I took it home and added it to my "to read" pile. Then Hailee had Cat over to spend the night. Cat, who can never resist picking up a book, started reading it so I let her take it home. Since I didn't have the book in my possession, I decided to download the audio book and listen to it on a trip to East Texas. (By the way, Cat says she's read it four times--guess that means she liked it!) Man, I'm glad school's starting again so I can get recommendations from my kids! But I digress...
This story centers on Willow, a 17 year old high school junior, whose parents were killed in a horrible car accident months earlier. Willow is consumed with guilt over the fact that she was the one driving the car the night her parents drank too much wine and asked her to drive them home. Since their death, she has moved to a new town to live with her older brother and his wife. Everything in Willow's life has changed since the accident, but the thing that's changed the most is her relationship with her brother. Once extremely close, now there is only discomfort as they each try to adjust to their new roles--he as a parent, and she, as his charge.
Willow has a secret--She has descended into an extremely self-destructive addiction that is as honest and sincere to her as it is deceitful and insidious . Willow is a Cutter. She has found that the only way she can block out her emotions surrounding the accident is to slice her own skin with a razor blade. She compares the pain that floods her body to the way she imagines an opiate addict must feel as heroin seeps into their veins.
Willow manages to hide her wounds from everyone...until she meets Guy while working part time at the University library. From their first meeting, Willow is drawn to Guy, and they bond over a shared love of eccentric literature. Guy "gets her" like no one ever has. Early on in their friendship, Guy discovers Willow's secret and becomes the one person on Earth that Willow can almost imagine trusting with her heart--almost. At her request, Guy preserves her secret, but it tears him apart inside. While her cutting causes real, physical scars on Willow's skin, the emotional wounds they inflict on Guy are every bit as painful. Can she stop cutting? If she stops, will she be able to face the pain, grief, rage, sorrow, sadness and guilt that she's struggled to keep at bay for months? If she decides to face her demons, will she survive them?
It doesn't feel right to say "I loved this book" because the subject is so jarring. I did become emotionally attached to Willow, though, and reading her story gave me a better understanding of Cutting. People who cut do so because it is a way for them to control their pain, rather than facing a pain that they can't control. Willow's story will resonate with many readers--of that I'm certain. I am on the lookout for more books by Julia Hoban!