Title: Counting by 7s
Author: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Publication Date: August 29, 2013
Source/Format: ARCycling / ARC, 378 pages
Opening Sentence: SOMEONE PROVIDE ME WITH THE OPENING LINE, PLEASE!
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In the tradition of Out of My Mind, Wonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.
Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.
Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.
I’m going to be completely honest right now; the first thing to draw me to Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan wasn’t the story or the author or anything like that. It was the amazing cover. I don’t know why that’s important. The cover kind of has nothing to do with the book at all, but I wanted to say it.
I’m having a hard time trying to get my thoughts together, so here comes a bullet point review!
Things I Liked:
The story was super cute and very interesting. I feel like it would have been so easy for the author to take the tone in another direction, but even in the less happy parts there was still a feeling of hope.
Willow Chance was a very quirky character. A twelve year old genius, Willow was always spewing out facts and thinking in very logical, analytical, but not boring ways. I loved that she didn’t deny herself the chance to be upset, but at the same time she knew she had to keep going. Her intelligence told her the world went on, but her youth and general humanity balanced it out to a mix of moving on and standing still/grieving. (Did any of that make sense or was I just talking again?)
I adored watching this cute, dysfunctional, amazing mixed-and-matched family form. I loved watching the characters get to know and love each other. By the end of the book I about died over how close they had all gotten. And the moments when they realized they loved each other? *sniff* I need a tissue.
Things I Didn’t Like:
Dell Duke. I almost quit this novel near the beginning because I truly disliked a character named Dell Duke. I mean… I find characters I don’t like all. the. time. But generally I can find at least one redeeming quality about them. I had trouble finding anything I liked about Dell. Luckily I stayed on board, because the more I read the less I hated him. But still… he was something to get used to. (He did grow a lot throughout the story, though. I’ll give him that.)
I loved how witty and smart Willow was, but sometimes I was rolling my eyes at her. There were some things she was so ignorant or naïve about and it left me feeling unsure about her character. I know she’s something of an “outcast” because she’s intellectually advanced, but she talked/thought like a robot on more than one occasion. I mean, it was like she had no idea about people or culture. She’s a human… she would have known some of these things simply because she’s alive. Right? (I guess you have to read it to know what I mean.)
I don’t know if it’s just me… but I feel like this book was a taaad stereotypical. Asians with a nail salon, a deadbeat who likes comic books, a white couple adopting a black baby, et cetera…. I know there are people I just described to a T. I’m well aware… but I also just described some stereotypes. I’m not a stereotype/cliché stickler by any means, but I feel like there were just so many in this book. Maybe my noticing all that says more about me than anything, but I don’t know. Even Willow being smart but culturally ignorant is something of a stereotype. Bleh.
As you can see, I have a lot of feelings. At the end of the day, good and bad combined, Counting by 7s is a book I would recommend. It’s marketed as middle grade, but I feel like it’s a little bit older. I don’t read much middle grade, though, so it’s totally possible I’m underestimating younger people. (I don’t mean to, I swear!)
A little sad, a little funny, a little heartwarming… I don’t have anything witty to say. (oops) This one is worth a read.
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars