Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Counting By 7's by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Characters are Willow, genius with a very positive attitude, Dell inept school counselor, Mai and Quang-Ha real friends of Willow though older, their mother Pattie, Jairo the Mexicano Taxi driver, Saduh and Cheddar the Cat. Setting is somewhere in southern California.  Willow is a misfit in school, she is way to smart and serious for the average middle schooler. But, she has her garden which is spectacular, understanding parents, a lot of determination. When she takes a standardized test and gets a perfect score she ends up in counseling for cheating. Dell is largely inept as a counselor but he recognizes genius when he sees it and winds up a friend of sorts for Willow. Quang-Ha is also being unsuccessfully counseled by Dell. Willow and Quang-Ha and Mai his sister aren't supposed to meet but they do. Willow recognizes a fellow genius and quickly makes friends of Mai, her first friend actually. Quang-Ha finds a way to use Willow's genius to his advantage and slowly becomes less of a trouble maker. Tragically both Willow's parents are killed in a car accident. Family services wants to place Willow in a locked residency for troubled teens till a permanent placement (adoption) can be found. Willow knows she cannot survive this. She calls on Mai to help keep her out of there. Mai enlists her mom Pattie. This family's living situation is unusual to say the least, not something family services would approve of. So, with the help of Dell and Jairo an acceptable living environment is created using Dell's apartment and sending him to live with Saduh. They do succeed in getting temporary placement of Willow and eventually even better. There are a lot of near disasters along the way but this odd group of people become true family and everyone is thriving in the end, at least for now... I was happy to see some good capable adults (Pattie, Jairo) in this story, even though Dell is a bit of a stereotypical adult in teen novel. I have a hard time thinking of a teen or tween who would be attracted to this quirky story. Maybe readers of Holes or Hoot or Walk Two Moons would enjoy this. Certainly it will take a reader who understands and appreciates intelligence. By the way, counting by 7's isn't some freaky obsession, its just something Willow happens to enjoy! And when she cannot enjoy this the reader knows how deeply sad she is. This story is worth reading. JDW 12/4/13

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