Okay, so I know in the summary it says that this book “is not a tragedy,” but still, going into it I was kinda expecting it to be exactly that. I mean, it says right there in the summary that her parents die in a car crash. But actually, the summary was right. It wasn’t a tragedy. Sad in parts, yes. Obviously. But more than that, I think this book was hopeful. Because although the death of Willow’s parents is a driving force in the book, it isn’t the only thing it’s about.
Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.
Instead, it’s about all kinds of good things, like finding somewhere to belong. It’s about the effect we have on others without knowing it, and how small acts of kindness can change everything. It’s about family—both the kind you’re born with and the kind you choose. It’s about how finding a new normal can be so, so hard but possible all the same. I kinda wanted to hug this book when I finished.
Willow . . . basically I want to adopt her. She’s a genius, and it colors her relationships with others and her reactions to the world around her, but it doesn’t make her emotionally distant at all. She’s kind and caring and such a good kid, despite all the hard things she has to go through. I loved her interest in medical conditions and in gardening, and those were the kinds of things that made her feel so real and accessible as a character.
I adored the other characters as well, even the ones I didn’t expect to in the beginning. I mean, Dell Duke is about as pathetic of a character as you can get at the start of the book. But if there’s one thing this book shows, it’s the power that comes from being needed and from other people having expectations of you.
Overall, it was a solid book. I don’t typically go for middle grade books, but this one was worth it. It had powerful lessons to teach, but it didn’t shove them down my throat, and I really appreciate it when a book respects my intelligence.
Rating: 4 / 5