By Holly Goldberg Sloan
Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life…until now.
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 revelation to read.
“The corpse blossom has bloomed.”
This is a 2015-2016 Nominee for the Children’s Library Association of Utah in the category of Young Adult Fiction, which is why I decided to read it. I don’t read all the nominees, but I do look for the ones that sound interesting and add my two cents to the voting. This book, in a similar tone to Wonder by R.J. Palacio, (which was amazing by the way), is about a young girl who defies labels. Highly intelligent, Willow Chance is a girl a reader just can’t help but like. She loves plants, gardening, and has a bamboo patch in her backyard as well as all kinds of flora and fauna. She loves studying diseases and is always on the look out for interesting cases in the people she passes on the street. This story is about her own coming of age, about how her differences make her able to help others even in the midst of her own problems. It’s not a book about grief, it’s a book about family, love, and acceptance of yourself. It’s a beautiful little story told in a lyrical way about Willow’s loss and how she comes to face it, and keep moving forward.
I give it a 4 out of 5