Sunday, September 22, 2013

Novel Review: Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Rating (Out of 5): ~4-4.5
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Publisher: Dial (Penguin)
Publish Date: August 29th, 2013
Spoilers?: No.

Goodreads Synopsis:

A B.E.A. BUZZ BOOK 2013. An Amazon Best Book of the Month. A Junior Library Guild Selection. A Kids Indie Next List #4 on Top Ten Autumn 2013

In the tradition of Out of My Mind, Wonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.

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 a revelation to read.

Something Specific:
 Quotes (there are a lot):

  • "I think it’s important to get pictures of things in your head. Even if they are wrong. And they pretty much always are.” (ARC, pg. 11)
  • "But Dell had always had an issue with organization. He couldn’t throw things away because he had trouble figuring out what had value and what didn’t.” (Pg. 42) Ohmygod, so do I!
  • ·         "I was not pretending to be anyone but myself, and they still accepted me into their troop.
    I felt human.
    That was the only way I could describe it.” (Pg. 77)
    ·         The library has regulars.
    A lot of them talk to themselves.
    But they do it quietly because quiet is enforced here.” (Pg. 174) I am one of those people, only I don’t actually frequent the library.
  • "All reality, I decide, is a blender where hopes and dreams are mixed with fear and despair. Only in cartoons and fairy tales and greeting cards do endings have glitter.” (Pg. 17)
  • "In the morning I decide that I’ve done a disservice to myself in terms of my physical achievement.
    This is another way of saying that since no one thinks being motionless for hours is any kind of sport, I’m very challenged, athletically speaking.” (Pg. 272) Haha, I just love how she says that, how true it is…
  • "I don’t want to know how you did it. I want to believe that you’re magic.’” (Pg. 335) That's just so sweet. Aw...
  •  "A second can feel like forever if what follows is heartbreak.” (Pg. 351)
  •  "Does saying goodbye matter? Does it really end something?” (Pg. 354)

    The Cover:

    I really like this cover. It's simple, pretty, and very fitting for the book and the characters. It's also one that I would be very much not embarrassed by, were I carrying it in public, and that's nice.


    "It said I was ‘highly gifted.’
    Are people ‘lowly gifted’?
    Or ‘medium gifted’?
    Or just ‘gifted’? It’s possible that all labels are curses. Unless they are on cleaning products.
    Because if my opinion it’s not really a great idea to see people as one thing.
    Every person has lots of ingredients to make them into what is always a one-of-a-kind creation.
    We are all imperfect genetic stews.” (Pg. 18)

    I was really lucky to win this online, especially considering it was already on my list to get. I read Sloan’s previous book, I’ll Be There, and really enjoyed that one. This is a little out of my usual, given that it’s a middle grade and not romance, but it sounded really good and I like Sloan’s writing style. I’m also surprised that I read it so fast, but I’m glad I did. Because it was really good.
    This is a really sweet story, starring Willow Chance, a very smart twelve year old who’s been unsuspectingly orphaned for the second time. She was first adopted by her loving parents, and then they were in a car crash while she was out with her school therapist, Dell Duke, and her new possible friends. The cops don’t know what to do with her, when her new friend Mai (and her brother, Quang-ha) have her stay with them and their mother for a bit, not wanting Willow to be sent away, but not really having a plan for the future, either.
    First of all, I wasn’t expecting the group of people around Willow. Had no idea she was going to end up being taken in by this family she’d just met, or how things turned out with that family and her therapist, and several other characters we met along the way. Things turned out maybe a little too well, but I really liked it.
    I loved the characters, and I love how Sloan writes. The timeline goes backward for a little bit near the beginning, catching you up to the first couple chapters, and I liked that. The narrative jumps around from person to person a lot (with skips between, not all at once or anything), and I really like getting inside the other characters heads, seeing what they think and what’s going on with them. The writing style was a bit like the movie Mary and Max, a movie that I absolutely love, and a bit similar to The Book Thief, although I’m a little hesitant to compare them, seeing as how this book is much more lighthearted and whimsical, and doesn’t skip to the characters’ future, just lets us see their past.
    Willow is the main characters, and she’s a bit autistic, focusing intensely on plants and counting by 7s to calm herself down, and is so smart. She’s pretty much stopped going to school altogether, but has no problem reading textbooks, studying, and doing the homework of her friends'. And she’s always thinking little insightful thoughts that I loved. She grows quite a bit in this book, and I loved the development of it. The other characters are just as quirky, in very different ways, and I loved them as well. I loved everyone’s relationship to each other, as well, and how everyone grew closer to each other. 
    This was a really, really good book. It’s lighthearted, whimsical, quirky, fun. It’s a light read, no matter its page number, has short chapters and short, insightful paragraphs and thoughts from the characters. I loved it. And Sloan has definitely been added to my to-watch list of authors.

     A review copy was provided by Cuddlebuggery's Little Blogger, Big Ambitions project and Alexa Y., of Alexa Loves Books. Thank you so, so much!

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