Willow - Julia Hoban
*April 2nd, 2009 Dial
*April 2nd, 2009 Dial
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.
Julia Hoban's Willow is an absolutely brilliant masterpiece. With an interesting perspective, haunting subject matter and controversial panache, Willow captures teen tragedy and conveys it in an achingly beautiful way.
On the surface, it may seem that Willow is a book about a girl who cuts. Which it is - but it's also so much more than that. This is an issue that I've had personal connections to, so on that basis as well it was really interesting to see it portrayed in literature, because it doesn't get that much coverage. Hoban went above and beyond expectations (which were relatively high to begin with, considering the amount of rave reviews it's received so far). [Cutting] isn't just straight-up judged here - it's surrounded by context, by reasoning, by motivations. And that changes everything. Controversial and thought-provoking, Willow brings a refreshing jolt of reality to the realm of YA.
The perspective of the book - third person present tense - may seem a little odd at first, considering that with that comes a slight level of removal. But as the story progresses, wouldn't have it any other way. Simultaneously offering insight into Willow's mind and giving a little space for neutral (or biased) thought, it works. Hoban's writing style and voice are really something as well. The descriptions, the actions, the narrative itself are all told in a very captivating manner - Willow is definitely exceedingly difficult to put down. Hoban has also managed to capture the teenage voice remarkably well. Every once in a while, there was a phrase here or there that seemed a little out-of-sync age-wise, but then again, even among teens there is a lot of variation in speech.
The characterization was a masterpiece in and of itself. The characters really come alive, fleshed out with complex motivations and insecurities and thought-processes. (And of course, Guy is a rather sweet, well, guy.) One scene his actions seemed to progress a little oddly, but beyond that character traits and actions were highly credible and realistic. Seeing Willow metamorphosize throughout the course of the story was very poignant and beautiful. The reader is carried along on this journey of self-realization along with Willow, which is super-cool.
Hoban attacked a pretty tough topic here, which is always bound to draw some controversy. In this case, it'll be good to shine some light on the issue of teenagers and cutting. Don't want to give away too much, but basically, Hoban's Willow pushes the envelope in a brilliant way. One of the best books of 2009, this review hardly does Willow justice.