Book Review: Willow by Julia Hoban

by Julia Hoban

I have to admit, when I first heard the buzz about this book, I sort of passed it by. Not to say I didn’t think the book sounded good – but the subject is one that is very sensitive and part of my own personal history.

Willow is a cutter. Her parents were killed in a car accident while she was driving and she blames herself for their deaths. She lives with her brother and his wife and daughter now and she consistently feels that she is a burden that was forced upon them.

Everything changes when Willow meets Guy. He finds out that she’s a cutter and almost confronts her brother about it, but she persuades him that it will literally crush him to find out that she harms herself. So Guy sticks around. He hangs around the university library where she works (yet they’re both in high school) and keeps involving himself in her life. At first, she pushes him out of her mind and tries to get him to leave her alone. But, they have too much in common and she finds herself liking him and possibly loving him.

After hearing a few reviews of this book and then meeting Julia herself, I had to read this book. I learned a lot about the book before I read it at her reading in Indiana that I attended last weekend. Never once does she describe Willow or Guy, yet you can imagine the characters perfectly. I loved her reasoning behind this concept of not having the character recognizable. It also gives the reader more creative imagination on what they imagine the characters to look like.

I also love some of the added humor. Such as the point at which Willow’s brother David figures out she finally is involved with someone and tries to approach the issue of sex with her. I was laughing hysterically throughout that scene.

Also, the fact that the sex involved in the book is safe sex – both physically and spiritually. You rarely see sex portrayed in the correct way in young adult novels – if at all. When it does occur, there seems to be a lack of safe sex. I really applaud Julia for including this vital part of the book and the way it really helped lead Willow to realize there’s more than just the blade to keep her going.

My favorite line of the book is towards the end and I think it really captures what cutting can become to young women: “That box of blades can’t be your lover anymore, no matter how much they’ve been there for you in the past.” (p. 327) And really, I feel that cutting is an addiction and it definitely releases the same type of endorphins.

I have to applaud Julia for this amazing book – all the research she threw into it to portray a realistic situation in which to express the self-destructive behavior that is cutting.

I can’t say it was heavy either – yes, there were some serious issues addressed, but at the root of it all was the evolving relationship between a young man and woman. And well, who can’t relate to falling in love?


39 responses to “Book Review: Willow by Julia Hoban

  1. Tynga

    It really does sound good kristen, I don’t usualy read books with serious subject but I would give this one a shot =)

  2. Llehn

    I have to admit that I have yet to find a book on cutting. I suppose it’s one of those edgy things that gets swept under the rug. But I remembered the teaser that you posted on your site a while back and I have to say that I am very intrigued.

  3. Sab H.

    I just finished it too!! Love, love loved it! Oh, Guy! *sigh*
    Wonderful review Kristen, though I haven’t read it-LOL. I will be back and read it and comment properly when I write my review! (If I read it before I tend to change my thoughts of the book! Weird right?) ;D

  4. Misty

    Hmm, thought I had already commented. Maybe I did on GR…
    It’s good to know there’s some comic relief, ’cause when I saw this on GR, it instantly caught my attention, but I wasn’t in the mood for something that was pure serious/downer.
    Nice review. 🙂

  5. Pam

    I’ve heard of cutting but I don’t know a lot about it. No one I know has been through this to my knowledge. It sounds like this book deals well with this rather sensitive and ignored topic though. Great review!

  6. Jessica Secret

    Huh. Your review is having me consider reading this, even though it is way off from my usual read. I’ll think about it….

  7. Liz

    Wow! Thats an amazing review! I really like that line too 🙂 but I haven’t read the book yet, NOW I have to read it! This was to good of a review to forget about the book!

  8. This looks really good. I would love to read it and then have my sister read it as well. She is really into this kind of literature. I am too…but to an extent. I am always willing to read something that someone has given a good review to. Thanks for this.

  9. Sheere

    I have been thinking about reading this book for a long time… but as it has sucha a serious subject I never came around to do it.
    But as you are saying that you liked this book so much and it seems to have some other topics to lighten the mood..
    Yeah I think that I’ll read it!

  10. Kristen, you really touched me with your review of WILLOW. Normally, I would give much of a glance to a book about “cutting”, but now I actually want to read this book because of your thoughtful review! gcwhiskas at aol dot com

  11. Jenny N.

    I really liked your review of this book. I wasn’t sure about this book because of the cutting but you definately changed my mind.

  12. Jill of The O.W.L.

    Thanks for the review. I really want to read it now. I think it would provide some understanding of this topic.

  13. Sarah

    Great review. I’ve never read a book with such a serious subject being discussed before. I’d like to give it a shot though. And thanks for letting us know that there is safe sex scene in the book. As much as I love romance, I don’t want to read into the sex part to much.

  14. katie

    Wow great review. I recently got this so I will have to read it soon. I’m so glad you liked it and I have to say that all the reviews I have read for it have been good. I can’t wait to read it!

  15. Wrighty

    This is such a delicate subject but it sounds like it was handled very well. I especially like the touch of humor. I’ve heard very good reviews but yours really hit the mark. I’ll be looking for this one!

  16. Jessy

    I have to say that when i read the synopsis for this book it didn’t grab my attention, but now reading about it hear I think I might enjoy this one.

  17. Casey

    I’ve debated on whether or not I should read this since it was released. The story is one of those very touchy subjects and I just didn’t know if I would enjoy it. But from reading your review, I know this is a “must go get now” book. Thanks for the review.

  18. Cherie J

    Wonderful review! I have been debating getting this book because I thought the whole cutting issue might make it too grim. I am feeling more reassured that it is not after reading your review and definitely want to read it.

  19. pepsivanilla

    I’ve been wanting to read this one. I admire authors who take on touchy, but important subjects that face us teens. I loved 13 Reasons Why even though its subject was a tough one, and I’m hoping Willow is a great book.

  20. Amy

    Your review is great! This sounds like a wonderful, inspiring but also very painful, sad and difficult story. It’s awesome that you met the author and heard her talk about the book. I think this is such an important subject and one that needs to be talked about but in the right way, with love, support, respect & some humor. A lot like what this books sounds to be.

    Your review has really piqued my interest in the book.
    Thank you

  21. Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books)

    I have to start reading this soon. I wish I didn’t have so much school stuff going on right now. Senior year in college is not a breeze when you’re in nursing school.

  22. I passed over this book too at first. I worried that it would be too hard to read. But honestly, it is one of my favorite books ever. Like you mentioned, the humor lightened up the book a lot. It was great. I also love the quote you mentioned. That was a great way to look at it in that scene. Terrific review!

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