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Review: Willow

October 22, 2009


Poor Willow – she feels like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders.  Both of her parents died in a car accident when she was sixteen and now she lives with her brother, sister-in-law and baby niece.  Their apartment is small and cramped, money is tight and Willow feels like she’s in the way.

When Willow moved in with her brother, she had to transfer schools and she feels like she doesn’t fit in there either.  She thinks everyone knows all about her, and she doesn’t want their pity.  Academics aren’t going so well either since Willow’s mind is always somewhere else.

How does a seventeen year old high school student cope with all of that?  Willow cuts herself because

She has so conditioned herself to transmute emotional pain into the physical realm, that without the razor to blunt her feelings, her body is responding the best way it possibly can.  She is literally making herself sick.

(This is revealed very early in the book, so it’s not a spoiler.)  Cutting becomes so important to Willow at times it seems like it’s all she can think about.  She’s an expert at hiding her scars and her supplies.  She says,

I’ve taught myself, I’ve trained myself, not to feel anything except physical pain.  I’m completely in control of that.

When I first read about Willow by Julia Hoban on Presenting Lenore, I knew I had to read it and ordered it right away since none of our local stores carried it.  It got buried by other books, and then Alea raved over it and I told myself I should read it soon.  I got caught up with something else and didn’t get to it.  Candace‘s review finally made me put it at the top of the TBR pile and I’m glad it did.  I really enjoyed this book and its fictional peek into the life and mind of a cutter.  The character development in Willow is fantastic!  I really cared about Willow and hoped she would speak up as I read this book.  Willow’s thinking is flawed at times, but if you can remember your teen years at all, you can totally relate to it.  I did feel like things were wrapped up a little too neatly and easily by the end of the book, but it really didn’t distract from the story.

Reading Willow made me research cutting or “Deliberate Self Harm Syndrome” and I found some disturbing statistics.  1.9 million people in the U.S. are cutters and most of them are women between the ages of 13 and 30.  Many of them have been sexually or physically abused and they cut to relieve anxiety.  As far as I know, I’ve never known a cutter and I can’t imagine doing it to myself.  I don’t mean that judgmentally, though, because I’ve never had to endure the pain many of them have.  Cutters can be helped, so if you, or someone you know, is a cutter please speak up and find some help.

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42 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2009 6:55 am

    I continue to hear wonderful things about this book. I’ve got it in my TBR pile but honestly have been hesitant to read it because of a fear that the cutting parts will be too dark for me.

    I know I’ll get to it soon since so many have found it to be so wonderful!

  2. October 22, 2009 6:57 am

    Isn’t this a great book? I have to say I was pretty impressed with it when I read it earlier this year.

  3. October 22, 2009 7:10 am

    I know how physical pain is so much better than emotional one.. You train yourself to except the physical pain…it is difficult.
    This one sounds like a powerful one…! Thank you for a great review!

  4. October 22, 2009 7:16 am

    Sounds like a very powerful book. I definitely need to read it! I like how you gave some statistics at the end of your review. It made it so real to me!

  5. October 22, 2009 7:32 am

    I have seen some of this in a classroom of adolescents that I studied for a long magazine piece. It’s a devastating place to be. Thanks for a great review.

  6. October 22, 2009 7:43 am

    I first heard about this from my youngest daughter when she was in *gulp, Junior High, she said some girls would talk about it. Even though she knows girls who claim to be reformed cutters, she says that they don’t have any visible scars and they do P.E. in tank tops and shorts, changing in front of each other. In some circles, she said, its as if it’s “cool” to be/have been a cutter, like the other kids are impressed that someone is either that messed up or that unafraid.

    Disturbing stuff, I’m on the fence about reading the book. I’m the mom who always wants to call any mom who’s daughter says she cuts, evidence or not. I persist in the antiquated idea that all mom’s look out for their kids, and others, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary…

  7. October 22, 2009 7:46 am

    Wow! “Willow” is definitely interesting. Your review really puts it all out there where I can’t resist reading it. I have a list of recommendations on one blog. I’m going to type it there. Then, I won’t forget this book.

  8. October 22, 2009 8:10 am

    I’m with Michelle on this one – afraid it would be too dark! But I’m glad to see other, braver souls read it and give the problem greater attention.

  9. October 22, 2009 8:13 am

    The book sounds interesting but disturbing. I’ve read about cutting; people who indulge in that are seriously messed up. And it’s scary that kids consider it cool and worth emulating.

  10. October 22, 2009 8:57 am

    I was going to read this during the readathon, but I have so many dark reads I may have to put it off. It’s definitely at the top of my post-readathon TBR list, though!

  11. October 22, 2009 9:03 am

    This sounds like a very harrowing book, I cannot imagine wanting to cut myself for any reason, but each of us has our own way of coping. Very strong book. I may have to check it out.

  12. October 22, 2009 10:01 am

    I guess at my age I shouldn’t be shocked by anything but this did it. How very sad to feel the need to hurt one’s self to relieve pain. A very disturbing subject but your handled it very well in this review.

  13. October 22, 2009 10:27 am

    I’ve read about cutting & seen TV shows that incorporated it into story lines, but don’t know anyone personally who cuts. My guess is this would be a fascinating, yet scary, book to read. Thanks for reviewing it.

    Straight From Hel

  14. October 22, 2009 11:59 am

    Thank you for your sensitive review. It seems like an odd affliction, yet it affects many young people. Willowsounds like a disturbing yet important book.

  15. Carol permalink
    October 22, 2009 1:21 pm

    Sounds like a powerful book.

    I do know someone who was a cutter when she was younger. Thankfully she did get help.

  16. October 22, 2009 1:41 pm

    Great review. The book sounds very compelling indeed.

  17. October 22, 2009 1:47 pm

    I remember Candace/Beth’s review on this and it piqued my interest. I am amazed at how many times cutting is mentioned in books that I read. Just recently, in BoneMan’s Daughters. It is really scarey!!

  18. October 22, 2009 2:08 pm

    I think this is the 2nd review of the book I’ve read, I really need to get a copy.

    I can personally admit to having been a cutter. There was a lot of emotional abuse when I was growing up and, well, this is what I used to help deal with it. I can say that this is something that is very very easy to hid from people – even if you do wear shorts and tanks. I’m glad to say I haven’t done it in over 12 years. I also wish I never had, it’s just not the right way to deal with things. Let’s just hope if I’m ever blessed with a kid, they don’t do this or feel the need to.

  19. October 22, 2009 4:42 pm

    Very disturbing. I don’t usually read books like this, but it’s interesting to hear the discussion.

  20. October 22, 2009 4:48 pm

    Seems like this would be a very emotional read. It is an important topic for us all to acquaint ourselves with.

  21. October 22, 2009 5:48 pm

    I’ve heard so many wonderful things about this book. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  22. October 22, 2009 7:45 pm

    I get the shivers when I read about this subject.

  23. October 22, 2009 7:49 pm

    This sounds interesting and heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing this.

  24. October 22, 2009 7:59 pm

    This sounds like a difficult book to read, but also compelling. I read somewhere that Angelina Jolie was a cutter, so I believe this can affect all kinds of people.

  25. October 22, 2009 9:13 pm

    I loved this book and I actually have a review scheduled for it tomorrow. 🙂 I did have a friend who cut herself in high school, but I didn’t mention that in my review because I could relate to Willow in other ways. I really loved the book – you can read more about why tomorrow morning!

  26. October 22, 2009 9:31 pm

    I remember reading several reviews of this one as well and thinking I’d really like to read it. Your review makes me think the same thing. Like you I should get to it. lol.

  27. October 22, 2009 9:42 pm

    My daughter’s best friend used to be a cutter. She wore long-sleeved shirts year-round which was how I came to know about it. We live in Nebraska–no one wears long-sleeves in July unless they’re trying to hide something. This sounds like a great book but maybe too close to home for me.

  28. October 22, 2009 10:02 pm

    I’ve seen quite a few reviews for this one, but today is the time it dawned on me what the cover means.

  29. October 23, 2009 1:05 am

    Great review. I think this is probably disturbing and compelling and relevant. I’m not sure it’s for me though!

  30. October 23, 2009 7:16 am

    This is a great review Kathy. Now I want to run right out and read this one myself.

  31. October 23, 2009 10:15 am

    Great review Kathy. I read it and I am in the process of writting my review for it.

    Your stats made it more real. I am like you and I personally don’t know a cutter. That is something I could never do only because I hate blood and get all squirmish.

  32. October 23, 2009 1:59 pm

    Great review Kathy. I agree with everything you said. This is such a great read, so compelling and moving and heartbreaking and hopeful and so much more. I’m so glad you read and enjoyed it.

  33. October 23, 2009 2:42 pm

    Wow, another great review for Willow! Pretty soon I’m going to have to put it to the top of my TBR pile, too. It sounds very moving, but disturbing… still, I’m sure I’ll read it soon!

  34. October 23, 2009 4:19 pm

    I read a review of Willow a couple of months ago on another blog and wanted to read it. But I forgot to write it down and then I couldn’t remember the name or author. I’m so glad you read and reviewed it. Thank you Kathy! You review is great and confirmed for me that I want to read it. I don’t know much about cutting aside from it’s mostly done by teens and they are in severe pain. It’s a very troubling, scary behavior as the info you researched shows. My heart break for the poor girl. I want to know that everything ends up ok.

    Thanks for a great review!

  35. October 23, 2009 4:33 pm

    The more people talk about cutting and stop keeping it hidden, you will be surprised to find out that you actually do know someone who does this. I find it disturbing because it is a real problem in the middle school ages. I honestly think that the number could be even higher. Beautiful review….I loved this book from the beginning to the end.

  36. stacybuckeye permalink
    October 23, 2009 5:05 pm

    Cutting seems so crazy to me, but I have think I I knew a cutter I probably wouldn’t know it.

  37. October 23, 2009 10:45 pm

    This book intrigues me, but frightens me. As the mother of a 13-year-old, I should probably read it …

    It will be interesting to see if it ends up in her bookstack; I’ll keep my eyes out for it.

    Thanks for the great review, Kathy.

  38. October 25, 2009 10:29 am

    Interesting stats! I didn’t think to look into them — cutting is very scary. I don’t think I’ve known a cutter either, but would we really know?

    I’m still thinking about the book. Thanks to Alea for encouraging me to read it.

  39. October 26, 2009 12:29 pm

    I hadn’t planned on reading this one, but after reading your review I might change my mind.

  40. October 26, 2009 4:16 pm

    This book sounds very intense, but also very interesting. I think I’d like to read it to find out what the eventual resolution to Willow’s problem is and how exactly she can hide her habit. Great review! This book really intrigues me.

  41. October 26, 2009 10:43 pm

    I keep hearing good things about this one, I just know I’ll have to read it. It sounds dark and powerful and intense.

  42. October 29, 2009 7:47 am

    Wonderful review, I read Willow because I have a close friend who is a cutter (started in her early teens and still cuts occasionally even in her mid-thirties.) We talk a lot about why she does it and in her case it isn’t because of past abuse but rather because she is bi-polar and when she hits that low stage the pain or shock of pain helps to bring her mental focus back. So really she uses cutting as a mood stabilizer. It’s totally unhealthy but it has saved her many times from depressions that she cannot emotionally pull out of. It’s scary and makes me feel so bad, but I try to understand and be there for her.

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