Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: August 29, 2013
Target audience: Middle grade
Keywords: tragedy, family, adoption, young geniuses
Format read: ARC from TLA. (Thanks!)
Other book reviewed by author: I’ll Be There
Summary: When her adoptive parents die in a car accident, Willow shuts down. The uber smart girl who loves to spend time in her garden no longer exists. Instead, Willow is quiet as her new companions help her to work through this tragedy.
I love Holly Goldberg Sloan’s writing because it instantly transports me back to my younger self and all the reasons I loved books in the first place.
Her themes revolve around unconventional families, tragedy, fate, and how the smallest act of kindness can utterly change someone’s life.
With her succinct writing style, Sloan has written a beautiful book about young Willow, probably the smartest protagonist I have ever encountered, who must deal with the shocking deaths of her parents. She was adopted by them, and now she is surprisingly “adopted” by high schooler Mai, her mom, her brother, and (kind sorta) her school counselor. This group of people couldn’t form a more eclectic family, and together they learn how to evolve individually as they help Willow to grieve and move forward.
At first sight, Willow is a little hard to get a handle on. She knows even the smallest details about the plants in her garden, she can learn to speak Vietnamese in record time, and she’s sort of walks around like she’s a little 50-year old with super complex brain functions. This little lady, even when brought down by absence of her parents, has no idea the effect she has on the people she comes across, and I loved watching that happen. Slowly and meaningfully, I knew Sloan would connect the dots in a way that would make me nod my head and think “all is right in this world.”
For all the serious situations surround the main plot, I promise there are some sweet, funny, and wonderful moments to counterbalance the flow.
Counting by 7s felt like a poetic masterpiece as I got swept into Willow’s story and this cast of colorful and complex characters. (I love that the adults are facing their own demons too.) It really is a team effort to make these people feel whole again, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them. My only warning? Have tissues on hand.