Seven months ago, on a rainy March night, sixteen-year- old Willow’s parents drank too much wine and asked her to drive them home. They never made it—Willow lost control of the car and her parents died in the accident. Now she has left behind her old home, friends, and school, and blocks the pain by secretly cutting herself. But when Willow meets Guy, a boy as sensitive and complicated as she is, she begins an intense, life-changing relationship that turns her world upside down.
Told in an arresting, 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.
I don't like whiny characters. I don't like characters that blame themselves for everything. I don't like characters that hate themselves.
If they hate themselves--well, it's just so easy for me to hate them back. If they're continually telling me as a reader that they're awful and worthless, I'm inclined to believe them. I normally don't read problem books, so maybe this is why I found the self-indulgent angst, endless wavering actions, and characters in Willow to be irritating. This book is packed with self-pity, self-hate, and a narrative told in a sobbing whine. And that is why I hurled it across the room three quarters of the way through.
I aimed. Then threw. And the pages fluttered and the spine arced beautifully. Then there was the resounding crash against the wall. Lovely sound.
To phrase it lightly, I didn't like this book.
Of course, it's understandable that Willow feels guilt, shame, and grief [insert other self-defeating emotions here] after her parents died. After all, she was the one who was driving the car. As she continually thinks, as the author continually tells us: It's. All. Her. Fault.
Her brother's financial troubles. Her being alive. Her parents dying. War. Famine. Global warming. Poverty. Locusts. THAT PUPPY THAT JUST DIED?
Everything is Willow's fault.
And this is how the book is structured. Willow goes to school. Just as she's..you know, not thinking about anything...Willow thinks...I'm an awful person. Can I just die? [rinse, lather, repeat. Repeat. Repeat for the next 300 pages.] I'm left gritting my teeth and saying yes, Willow, please die.
Maybe I'm just being insensitive.
But I can't stand Willow.
I know she's got problems. I know her problem is awful; being orphaned. If I knew anyone in real life with that situation, I would be sympathetic. I should be sympathetic towards to Willow. I mean, Hoban pratically hits us over the head with all her problems. Parentless. Friendless. Passionless. Everything in the world sucks for Willow. But the only thing I feel for her is frustration and annoyance.
Willow's way of dealing things is to cut herself. And I don't feel like Hoban did a great job handling this subject. I found her need to cut herself to be melodramatic and gratuitous. Sort of like how vampires feed on blood, Willow will get this burning need to see blood, and will go into the bathroom and...*gasp* cut herself. And then she bleeds.
So yes, I admit I'm being insensitive here. Cutting is a real problem; I'm not claiming that it isn't. But as it's portrayed in this book, I just found Willow's situation to be irritating. I have absolutely no sympathy for her.
And that's why the whole premise didn't work for me. Add in some awkward prose to the mix, and I just really didn't enjoy this book. Third person present tense is very hard to pull off without it coming off as self-conscious. I really just didn't like the writing style.
So I'll stop now. I always feel bad for giving negative reviews, but I'm not willing to sacrifice honesty if I have a low opinion of a book.
If you will get annoyed by characters that hate themselves, by repetitiveness, by tell-y writing, then definitely don't pick up Willow.If you're looking for a book that details a girl dealing with self-destructive behavior, I'd pick up Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson instead. It's written beautifully, and anorexia is portrayed in such a realistic, harrowing way that I definitely felt sympathy for the main character. And it's one of my favorite books.
There are a lot of books out there that detail grief wonderfully. That manage to make their characters likable, even when we shouldn't like them. (I'm thinking of Cracked Up To Be* here). It's the opposite with Willow: I should like her but I don't.
Willow, in conclusion, was just not for me.
Harsh review, but something just really hit the wrong chord with me with this book.
I give it a 4/10.
*wonderful book, YOU MUST READ IT if you haven't.