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Book Review: Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Published May 2014 by Piccadilly Press.

21367449Goodreads Synopsis: In the tradition of Out of My MindWonder, 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.

My Review: When I started Counting by 7s, I knew I was in for a very emotional book. I think I probably underestimated just how emotional, though. Holly Goldberg Sloan’s novel was heart breaking and heart warming simultaneously. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. And everything in between. I really, really highly recommend it; it’s been a while since I finished it and I still can’t stop thinking about the characters!

Admittedly, it did take me quite a while to get into the story. I was a little confused by the narrative at first, as it does switch between Willow’s first person voice, and a third person focus on supporting characters and I got a little bit mixed up. I think one reason for that, though, was that was I started this in the middle of exams and revision, so I only had the chance to read a couple of pages at a time.

However, once I got into the story properly, Willow’s narrative had me completely hooked and didn’t let me go until the really teary, beautiful ending. Twelve year old Willow’s voice is very powerful, very unique and special – she reminded me a lot of Auggie from Wonder, who also has a really powerful young voice. I think Willow will be loved by anyone who picks up the book, adults and children alike.

Willow was an amazing protagonist. I loved her narration, which was very different to recent books I’ve read, all short, choppy, hard hitting sentences. She goes through so much and I really just wanted to hug her. And I wanted to hug everybody else too, like the friends Willow makes and Pattie and Dell. Every character was really well fleshed out and I do probably say this quite a bit in book reviews, but I really, really did feel like I knew and lived with them. The main characters all come together in such unlikely ways and it made for such a lovely ending.

Counting by 7s deals with grief and loss and family in a very raw and emotional way, and while I was thinking about the themes I found the raw intensity of everything reminiscent of a few of my favourite books. If you loved Annabel Pitcher’s books, or Bird by Crystal Chan – I really definitely recommend it.

Overall, Counting by 7s was such a compelling MG/YA contemporary read. The characters were all really fascinating, and I’m still thinking about them and the ending, even though I’ve read five books since finishing it! To sum it up; it’s raw, emotional and poignant. I’m definitely going to look out for more by Holly!

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Counting by 7s from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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