Review Blog

Aug 11 2014

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

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Scholastic, 2014. ISBN: 9781743626535.
(Age: 13+) Recommended. Themes: Grief; Genius; Family Relationships; Overcoming difficulty. Life takes an incredibly tragic turn for the main character, Willow Chance, when her adopted parents die in a vehicle accident. To lose two sets of parents within her 12 years of life is exceptionally cruel. She is quirky, eccentric, odd, unconventional and a genius with a flair for gardening, medical issues and counting by 7s. (Although not mentioned, one would assume she fits on the high-functioning end of the Autism Spectrum.) Her rescue from disintegration comes via unlikely means when she is brought home by her incompetent school counsellor and two of his recalcitrant clients, who seem to have issues that he can neither help nor understand. The Vietnamese family to whom she connects in the midst of unfathomable grief are disarmingly well portrayed with their own idiosyncrasies. Willow herself is an amazing character and she manages to change the people and the environment around her in subtle but positive ways.
This is both charming and heart-warming and would work well alongside The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time or The Year of the Rat as a companion text. Despite addressing deep grief, it is a remarkably uplifting book and Willow shows amazing resilience. There is a surprising injection of humour because of the characters she meets and their own odd ways of dealing with the world.
Carolyn Hull

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