In Julia Hoben’s Willow, we meet teenage Willow, whose parents have died in a car accident caused by Willow. She is sent to live with her brother and sister-in-law, and still consumed by guilt of what she thinks she did, Willow retreats into herself, cutting her skin open and pretending everything is okay.
I sympathized with Willow in this book — mostly. I have done things accidentally that I still kind of feel guilty about. And I get the pain that she feels, pain that makes her hurt herself. I have been in that exact spot. And while I don’t think this novel has a overly tight, tidy ending, I do think its ending does an injustice to girls Willow might inspire to fight on. Instead of Willow realizing she is strong and that with help, she will be okay, Willow gets a boyfriend who is very worried about her cutting and is the cutter patrol. Once they officially become boyfriend-girlfriend, everything is a-okay and Willow sees the light at the end of the tunnel.
I hate the message this sends to teenage girls. “All you need is a boyfriend and he will be your knight in shining armor and life will be good again.” But it’s so much more complicated than that, and that’s if you’re a teenage girl who doesn’t feel the weight of your parents’ death hanging on you the way Willow does.
Nice try, Julia. Perhaps your next novel will hit the mark.