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Content Review: Willow by Julia Hoban

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Dial (April 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803733569
  • ASIN: B003BVK4H4

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.

Sexual Content:





    She cuts herself when she's upset.  There's mention of how she cuts herself and blood, and the way it makes her feel.  (She hurts so much emotionally that she can't take the pain of it, so she cuts herself to deal with it.)

Other Notables:

    -Mention of doing jello shots (in the past) with her best friend and throwing up.


It seems that many of the books I am asked to review deal with serious, reality-based stories.  So, it's not surprising that when a book dealing with cutting comes along, I get to read it.  Having had a relationship with a young person who was involved in cutting, I was interested to find out how it would be handled in Willow.  Willow is a 17-year old girl whose life has been turned upside down and inside out.  Seven months prior, Willow, at 16 and the owner of a learner's driving permit, is at the wheel of the car during a torrential rain storm.  Her parents had been drinking at a party and felt safer with Willow driving.  This turned out to be a fatal error when they were involved in a car accident and both parents are killed.  Now Willow lives with her brother, his wife and infant daughter in a small apartment in a different town.  She has shut down completely, repressing every positie feeling and allowing only negative, paranoid, destructive thoughts into her head.  Anytime an emotion happens that hurts too much or a memory appears that she can't bear to relive, Willow deals with it by cutting herself with a razor blade.  This physical pain is readily accessible and overpowers the emotional pain.  Willow is addicted to the razor blade and works very hard to keep it hidden from everyone.

Then, a boy named Guy comes into her life and slowly, slowly things begin to change.  Almost from the first moment Willow meets him, there is a connection between them.  Guy gets to know her, care for her and accepts her just as she is.  It isn't long before he finds out about the cutting which horrifies and repels him, but he doesn't define Willow as "just a cutter".  He is truly an encourager who walks beside Willow on this journey.  It was really interesting to watch Willow move forward with her life, to gradually become willing to reconnect with people and her emotions.  I think the book does a good job of helping its readers to understand why someone would use cutting to relieve emotional pain.  It doesn't glamorize cutting or make it look cool or fun.  It shows some of the many consequences of the cutting.  In the progression of the story, Willow moves from being totally introverted and self-involved to developing relationships with Guy, her brother and friends.

I also really liked the development of the relationship between Willow and Guy.  He wasn't all the answers to her problems and he didn't "fix" her, but he was willing to talk to her, yell at her, cry with her and ultimately to love her.  I was a little disappointed at the culmination of their relationship because of their ages, but overall I thought this book was a very good read.  It was interesting, informative and very entertaining.


8 out of 10