Willow is the story of a young girl of the same name who is dealing with, in addition to the typical superficial mishaps of being a teenager, the loss of her parents due to a car accident of which she takes the blame. She is riddled with guilt, loss, fear, and isolation all while trying desperately to stay out of her older brother’s way. But, she finds a way to cope – self-injury. She cuts herself with a razor in order to stop the pain of life from overpowering her. And even when she has made a connection with someone, she finds it difficult to give up her relationship with her razor.
As I read Hoban’s beautifully written descriptions and highly emotional insights, my eyes would well and I found myself often times nodding in understanding. I sympathized for her as I understood the struggle that she felt to overcome an unhealthy attachment in order to allow healing to take place. And better yet, I understood the guilt not just because there were so many things left unsaid between myself and my sister (who passed away three days after I began this book), but because I could not save her.
During my years as a teacher, I was very concerned that most young adult literature is really depressing and involves such horrible images cutting, rape, and more. But Willow is not like most YA novels. It has depth. Willow is a multilevel character with intelligence way above her age level who understands and appreciates Shakespeare and Anthropology. Even her cutting is well planned and executed. Hoban writes about it as if she were writing about a functioning alcoholic who has planned his drinks throughout the day. Willow is so dependent on her “cure” that even after she is discovered, she cannot give it up.
Willow is a great read. It’s very educational for parents and kids alike, explaining the reasons for cutting in a way that does not trivialize the real emotional and physical pain that goes along with it. In addition, it may help young adults understand that verbalizing one’s feelings is the first step to healing.*this post was first published on Mom on the Rise