Willow – Julia Hoban
Seven months ago on a rainy March night, Willow Randall’s parents drank too much wine at dinner and asked her to drive them home. But they never made it – Willow lost control of the car, and both of her parents were killed.
Now seventeen, Willow has left behind her old home, friends, and school – numbing the grim reality of her new life by secretly cutting herself. But everything changes when one of Willow’s new classmates, a boy as sensitive and thoughtful as she is, discovers Willow’s secret and refuses to let her destroy herself.
Before I say anything else, let me say that this is a very intense novel. I’ve never been a cutter but one of my friends at school dabbled in it for a while. I didn’t understand her and I don’t really understand Willow. I can’t get my head around the concept of causing oneself physical pain to ease inner pain. That, however, doesn’t mean that I didn’t sympathise with Willow in this novel. If anything, my inability to understand her position only stimulated my desire to keep reading, hoping that the novel might help me understand her by the end. As a non-cutter, I can’t say that Willow actually provided me with any greater understanding of why cutters do this to themselves. I can, however, say that after reading this novel I stand behind Guy’s (her male friend that intervenes) decision to do everything in his power to help her, to show her that there are other ways she can release her pain.
Guy is an interesting character. He hardly knows Willow yet it is very clear that he feels some kind of draw to her immediately. I often wondered if he hadn’t fallen for her immediately, would he have been so interested in saving her? I would like to think that he would have, but how will we ever know?
On that note, I’d just like to say that this isn’t a teen romance. Guy does not come in and sweep Willow off her feet and then suddenly she is cured of her cutting. Guy suffers greatly through his initial friendship with Willow and struggles with his conscious a lot through the novel. He’s a strong character that simply tries really hard to show Willow that she doesn’t actually want to hurt herself that way. Willow saves herself. Guy just shows her that she actually wants to.
Julia Hoban will strike a chord with many teens and adult readers everywhere with this one. Whether or not cutting is something you understand, you’ll be unable to stop reading. If for nothing else, you’ll want to know whether Willow actually destroys herself. I’m not going to tell you what happens because I think that would ruin the read for you, but I am going to tell you that this is one hell of an uncomfortable read. I hope that someone somewhere reads this and realises that whatever they’re going through, it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. There is help out there, even if you think you don’t need it or you don’t want it.
Willow speaks for itself. I don’t feel like I need to, or even that I should comment on its contents or outcomes. Read the novel and decide for yourself.