WILLOW by Julia Hoban


Age Range: 14 & up
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Diluted by an expository and inconsistent narrative voice, this standard-issue problem novel will nonetheless appeal to readers interested in the topic of self-harm. Months ago, Willow’s parents drank “a second bottle of wine” at a restaurant and handed their daughter, equipped only with a learner’s permit, the car keys to drive them home. Rain and lack of experience caused a crash, killing both parents. Her brother now treats her with only “aloof courtesy,” and Willow secretly slices herself with razor blades to numb the crushing guilt and loneliness. Archetypal references—Shakespeare, classical mythology—somehow fail to add any extra literary layers. The overly explanatory third-person narration (“She’s a little flustered, a little embarrassed, and a little attracted too”) clashes with the immediacy of the present-tense voice, and excessive italics distract more than they emphasize. However, Willow’s acknowledgment of the cause of her grief—that she’ll never be anyone’s daughter again—is a sharp insight, and Hoban’s appropriately complex portrayal of cutting makes this a good choice on a crucial subject. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: March 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3356-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2009


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