Monday, February 14, 2011

Review: Willow

Willow by Julia Hoban
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Goodreads description:

Seven months ago, on a rainy March night, sixteen year- old Willow’s parents died in a horrible car accident. Willow was driving. Now her older brother barely speaks to her, her new classmates know her as the killer orphan girl, and Willow is blocking the pain by secretly cutting herself. But when one boy—one sensitive, soulful boy—discovers Willow’s secret, it sparks an intense relationship that turns the “safe” world Willow has created for herself upside down.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

First off, let me say that I love this cover - cutting a picture of a girl into strips fits this book perfectly. Actually, it's not just the cover - the whole design is great, I also love the "cuts" at the beginning of each chapter.

The book itself is riveting; I couldn't put it down. Before, the idea of cutting seemed kind of ridiculous to me and I couldn’t understand why anyone would do that to themselves. Not to say that I now think cutting is good, but I definitely understand the motivations for it better now – the way Willow described it, it just made sense. This book taught me lots about cutting I didn’t know before, or just hadn’t thought about – I never understood that it’s basically an addiction.

 The description of the cutting was disturbingly real. Actually, I can’t say whether it was realistic, but it seemed real and it was definitely disturbing, as I could imagine all of it clearly (even when I didn’t want to).

The characters were great – I could easily relate to Willow, and I felt each of her feelings, even the guilt for “killing” her parents, which was obviously not her fault. She seemed a bit selfish at times, though, when she didn’t see anyone else’s problems as real problems.

I absolutely loved the ending - it showed Willow's journal and her growth as a character perfectly. Despite the heavy subject, it showed hope at the end. Not to give anything away, but the last sentence was really sweet and made me smile.

Guy was an extremely well-developed character, even though he seemed a little too perfect and deep at times – I don’t really think teenaged guys like that exist. But that’s what I love about fiction, so I shouldn’t be complaining.

The character I liked best was probably David, Willow’s brother she now lives with. His character and his relationship with Willow were great and realistic, especially at the end. Some of the minor characters were underdeveloped, though, for example Cathy, David’s wife, and Willow’s friends, who seemed a bit too shallow at times.

The writing was rich and powerful, but I had a problem with the third-person, present tense narrative. Sometimes it seemed more like a report than a story, not because it lacked feeling, just because of the style. Maybe that’s just my opinion, though – I usually prefer first-person and past tense narratives, and some other reviewers have said this narrative fit the story well.

I also found it problematic that Willow and Guy never seeked help from a professional about Willow’s cutting, or at least tell an adult – Guy was too easily persuaded to keep Willow’s secret from David, in my opinion.

All in all, this book is definitely worth reading. The topic of cutting is explained really well, and the characters and writing are good, too. I’ll definitely keep my eye out for Julia Hoban’s next novel!


  1. I've only read one novel that dealt with cutting, it was very dark and moving. This one sounds a little more optimistic, which I always appreciate in a novel especially a YA novel. Will check this out!

  2. Hi Hannah!

    I followed you over from the book blogs, from the question you asked about the sidebar. I think your blog looks awesome.

  3. I had the same problem with the 3rd person. Glad it wasn't just me!


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