What You Need to Know:|
• A young girl copes with tragedy and loss when her parents are killed in a car accident.
• The main character is adopted.
• There are challenging words like deleterious, crypsis, duplicitous, and cardiomyopathy.
• The chapters switch from one character's point of view to another's. Sometimes more than one character's view is
shared within a chapter.
• The story starts in the present, shifts back to "two months ago" and then later catches up to "back in the now" where
the story continues.
• The language is crisp and concise, each word seemingly chosen with care and offering just the right amount of detail.
• Notice the insightful chapter names like, "Dell Duke: An ignoramus shoots at the wrong thing, and hits it".
"It has been my experience that rewarding and heartbreaking often go hand in hand."
How do we react when tragedy strikes? Readers explore this concept alongside Willow Chance when she's told that her parents have been killed in a car crash. That might sound like the makings of a really sad book, but while Willow's story is heartbreaking, it is also uplifting, inspiring, and surprisingly funny.
It's clear from the first few pages that 12 year-old, Willow Chance is clever, but as readers get to know her, they learn that she's a genius with a unique perspective on the world. She's especially knowledgeable about gardening and borderline obsessed with health-related issues and the number 7. She's aware that she's different from most kids, but she hopes that her new middle school will be an opportunity to make friends. Only a week into school, though, she receives a perfect score on her first standardized test, and her troubles go beyond fitting in. The principal suspects her of cheating and sends her for counseling.
Her counselor, Dell is far from qualified and perhaps even unethical, but Willow seems to sense something positive in him. After several visits to his office, she determines, "It was possible that he was making some progress in his mental health condition by seeing me." Through Dell, she meets Quang-ha, a troublemaker who is also seeing the counselor, and his sister Mai who accompanies her brother to the office. Willow is with Dell, Quang-ha and Mai when she hears the news about her parents, and from that moment on, they seem bound together. The three of them, along with Quang-ha and Mai's mother, Pattie, and Jairo, the taxi driver with whom Willow has had a chance encounter, form an unexpected support group for her, in the aftermath of her parents' death.
Despite the magnitude of the tragedy with which she is faced, Willow finds ways to cope and somehow manages to offer comfort and guidance to others along the way. She develops relationships with a diverse cast of characters who all mutually benefit from their willingness to open up and engage with each other. Willow is left completely alone when her parents die, but she was already living a fairly isolated existence. It is only when she deals with her loss and begins to heal, that a new, more connected Willow begins to emerge, leaving readers hopeful for her future.
Holly Goldberg Sloan
2013, 384 pages
Determination, Good Book Club Selection, Illness/Death, Life Challenges, Math, Physical/Mental Differences, Self-Awareness/Discovery
• How does Willow cope with her tragic situation?
• The quote on the cover says, "If you're lost, you might need to swim against the tide." What do you think that
means, within the context of the story?
• Would you want to be friends with Willow?
• Why did Willow avoid telling her parents about having to see the school counselor?
• How did you feel about Dell at the beginning of the book versus the end?
• Do you believe that people are capable of change?
• What is the difference between giving in and giving up?
• Without her parents, Willow questions what binds her to this world? What do you think binds you to the world?
• What is the significance of the occasional chapter headings?
• Who are the 7 most important people in your life?
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