Sunday, August 4, 2013

Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan

I read I'll Be There, by Sloan, last year and enjoyed it, so I was really looking forward to Counting by 7s to come out. I also really enjoyed it, but think I liked IBT just a little bit better.

Counting by 7s is about a girl named Willow Chance who's a little different. First there's the fact that she's adopted, and then there's the fact that she's somewhat of a genius - her mind works differently than others and she excels at nearly everything she tries. She's particularly obsessed with science, especially diseases and medical disorders. Her favorite number (as you might discern from the title) is 7. Despite her oddities, Willow feels perfectly blessed for her adopted parents, and they let her pursue all of her various interests. All that changes, though, when her parents are killed in a tragic car accident. Since her parents had no other family and didn't have any close friends, Willow's future suddenly becomes incredibly uncertain. However, she's able to buy some time by living with her new friend Mai's family. Through living with Mai's family, she learns to rediscover and accept herself after her parents' death, although the fear of permanent foster placement is always threatening. Willow does have a happy ending, but I'll let you find out how!

I truly loved Willow's voice and the deep reflection with which she viewed the world. After reading this and Sloan's other book, I would definitely say that her most noticeable gift in writing is character development. Both novels had characters with lifestyles/experiences completely different from my own, but by the end of the novel, I found myself able to predict how they would think and act. I also loved how the novel wound so many different characters' lives - Dell Duke, the school counselor; the Nguyens, the only Vietnamese family in town; Jairo, the taxi driver; and of course Willow - together seamlessly and through alternating viewpoints. It really kept things moving and propelled me to read more.

I love Sloan's writing, and there were lots of quotes that I truly loved - here are a few:

"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 in my opinion it's not really a great idea to see people as one thing." As a teacher, I just loved this quote. 

"It has been my experience that rewarding and heartbreaking often go hand in hand."

"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."

Given this beautiful language and the plot of the story, I think this novel will really appeal to girls in my class who are already strong, self-motivated readers. 

Also Try: Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine; Wonder, by RJ Palacio

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