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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Counting by 7's by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Today I'm not only reviewing Counting by 7's, but I'm also giving away a finished copy...

Counting by 7’s
Author: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Pub Date: August 29, 2013
Pub: Penguin
Format: ARC
Source: from pub
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 received an ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review 

When it comes to contemporary novels, I tend to gravitate toward middle-grade contemp and Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Counting by 7’s reminded me why I love this genre so much. Counting by 7’s is a moving, heartbreaking, yet utterly heartwarming, story about 12 year old genius Willow Chance. Willow, with her obsession with plants and disease diagnosing, inability to connect with anyone but her parents, and habit of counting by 7’s, is extraordinarily odd. When Willow’s parents are killed, her organized, routine based life is turned upside down and she finds herself living in an unexpected place, with unexpected people, and discovers some wonderfully unexpected things about life.

Holly Goldberg Sloan drew me in quickly with her oddball genius main character and her subtle, yet totally sparkling storytelling.  There are so many wonderful things I love about this book: the refreshingly different characters, Willow’s voice, the tangible and excellently woven emotional aspects to the story, and its powerful message of love; friendship; and acceptance. Most of the main characters, including Willow, are people of color and mixed races, which we don’t see nearly enough of in any genre. And while the various races and cultures are celebrated and explored within Counting by 7’s, they aren’t lazily used to define the characters; which I appreciated. The characters’ personalities and character growth and development are what define them and make them richly complex and well-crafted.

And these are unforgettable characters that I grew to greatly love. One of the most impressive aspects of Sloan’s storytelling and writing ability in this book is Willow’s distinct, memorable voice. Sloan has managed to capture Willow’s extraordinary genius and uniqueness, while still making her sound and feel 12 years old. And there’s something so captivating in the mix of Willow’s logical observations, frank honesty, profound musings and her still childlike wonder and point of view. This is a character that really captured my heart and moved me. I felt like Willow almost became a part of me as I read this book, and I not only witnessed her emotional journey, but experienced it with her. Willow’s new surrogate family is equally memorable in their individual and group uniqueness, oddities, and refreshing differences. And Sloan has done a great job of creating very real, perfectly flawed characters.  

This book is rich in emotions and, trust me, you will feel them ALL! Sloan has beautifully and authentically explored the all consuming world of grief and heartache and all that comes with it. Yet, this story is as hopeful, delightful, and inspiring as it is dark and heart-aching, and it is surprisingly funny. As much as I enjoyed (and even loved) this book, I must admit that I found the ending disappointing and lacking, which keeps me from giving this book 5 cupcakes. I won’t spoil the ending for anyone, but I will say that it felt forced and contradictory to the rest of the story :(

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: The disappointing ending aside (which you can easily re-imagine), Counting by 7’s is a wonderfully moving and captivating read. Willow Chance is a truly unforgettable character and I’d recommend this book merely for her alone, but luckily for readers the rest of the book is pretty great too. I think older middle-grade readers and up will get the most enjoyment out of this book.



Holly Goldberg Sloan
Holly Goldberg Sloan was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and spent her childhood living in California, the Netherlands, Istanbul, Washington, DC, and Oregon. She has written and directed a number of successful family feature films. The mother of two sons, Holly lives with her husband in Santa Monica, California. I'll Be There was her debut novel (she earlier had written a middle reader book called Keeper). Her next novel, Counting By 7s, will be published August 29th 2013 by Dial.

Win a finished copy of Counting by 7's!
Thanks to Penguin I have one finished copy to give away...
-US only
-will end 8/30
-must be 13+, one main entry per person
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes in the mail (book is coming directly from Penguin)
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Randi M said...

I'm glad you really liked this! The cover caught my eye a couple months ago when people started posting pictures from BEA. I'm looking forward to reading this; something about a loner or "different" from peers character really pulls me into a book. Great review! And thank you, Penguin, for the giveaway. :)

Unknown said...

This book "Counting by 7's" sounds like a very insightful read and would be interesting to see the world in the eyes of another and follow Holly's story. Thank you for sharing this review with us.

Carl Scott said...

I'm so pleased to see a copy of Counting by Sevens available for giveaway. I've already heard wonderful things about this book and I'd love to win a copy. Thanks to the author and all at Penguin for their generosity.

Brenda said...

Great review, characters and covers that grab ya are to pass on. Sounds like a wonderful story.

Brenda said...

Oops, meant to say hard to pass on. Sigh

Christina Fiorelli said...

Christina K. in the rafflecopter

This sounds like a perfect MG - especially because of the voice, which is hard to do because she's such a special, unique and awesome main character!!

Love the concept:)

Thank you very much:)

Batch of Books said...

This has been on my TBR list for quite a while. I can't wait to read it!