Review: Willow by Julia Hoban

Publisher: Dial (April 2, 2009)
Hardcover: 336 pages
Price: $11.55 from {amazon}
Summary: from {goodreads}
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.
Told in an extraordinary fresh voice, Willow is an unforgettable novel about one girl’s struggle to cope with tragedy, and one boy’s refusal to give up on her.


Review: I don't really feel like there's much to say about this one. The summary basically sums everything up: Willow's the new girl that managed to "kill" her parents, she has a hard time adjusting so she starts cutting, then she meets this guy called Guy (wonder what his parents were thinking) that just manages to get her. It's told in third person, which was pretty awkward at first; think: "Willow does not like her home. Willow is sad. She is lonely." Not a direct quote of course, but the sentences are very choppy and sounded a bit elementary to me at the beginning. However, I got used to it and managed to enjoy the story, so while the writing wasn't exactly a plus, it wasn't necesssarily a bad thing either.

As for Willow herself, I had some problems with her at times. I thought Julia Hoban did a nice job conveying Willow's feelings and what exactly made her cut herself. Definitely interesting to see how the "cutter mindset" was interpreted and how that played out throughout the book. I did feel a bit of disconnect at times, and that maybe not only was Willow a bit depressed, but also a little bipolar... As in, sometimes she would seem fine and then she'd do something totally unexpected. And towards the beginning, I felt Willow was way too judgemental and put herself down a lot, but I could definitely see improvement as she met Guy and their relationship progressed. As for Guy, he was so sweet and understanding, it was unbelievable. And "unbelieveable" as in both the ying and the yang. His sensitivity made me love him, but it was also a little like I can't imagine anyone who'd be quite that caring. That being said, he and Willow seemed perfect together; he knew how to deal with her and said the cutest things.

For people that are squeamish (I know I am a lot squeamish when it comes to blood), the cutting scenes weren't that bad. There were a few parts where I had to cover my mouth, but again I'm extremely wimpy here. If you can handle a razor, a little bit of blood, and some vague descriptions of pain, I'm sure you'll be fine. That can actually apply to the whole book; Willow just grazed the tip of the iceburg of all those raw feelings and disorders, so I'd definitely say this is one for people that want to have a little more emotional read, but don't want to deal with all of reality's hidden dark monsters. Don't want to believe in the monster underneath the depression bed? Read Willow. Though Willow didn't delve that deeply into disorders, it still was a fairly realistic book that didn't have the typical perfect ending. And, in the end, I was happy for Willow and the road she's heading down.

Romance: Sweet, light romance. While Guy was the major turning point for Willow, there wasn't much phsyical contact. There might be one instance of sex and perhaps two instances of kissing, but really not much here. It's a lot more concentrated on the feelings versus the physical manifestation, which I can appreciate.
Cover: 3.5
Writing: 3.0
Characters: 4.0
Plot: 4.0

Bottom Line: So maybe I had a few faults with Willow, and maybe the book Willow wasn't the turn of the century, but in the end I was able to get over the minor problems I had with it and enjoy the book. Despite my complaints, I still like Willow as a person and her compelling voice; though I can't say I've cut myself before, she still felt relateable and someone real. Overall, Willow was an enjoyable read that I'd recommend to anyone looking for something a little realistic and deeper than a chick-lit that they can immerse him/herself in for a couple hours.