With all the driving this summer, I had the chance to listen to several books on CD. One of them was a middle school book, Counting by 7s.
The main character, Willow Chance, is a 12-year-old genius who is obsessed with plants and medical conditions. This makes her stand out as somewhat of a freak. In fact, her parents try to give her a new start by sending her to a middle school where she would interact with all new students. When the students are given the state proficiency test, Willow not only finishes it in 17 minutes, but has a perfect score. She is labeled as cheater and sent to counseling with Dell Duke, an inept but well meaning person. During her sessions she crosses paths with a Vietnamese brother and sister and impresses the girl by speaking Vietnamese with her, just one of the languages Willow has taught herself.
When both of Willow’s parents are killed in an accident, the girl claims Willow as an old family friend and takes her to the garage they call home across from her mother’s nail salon. And this begins an unusual journey that brings unlikely people together—Willow, an adopted African American 12-year-old, Pattie, Quang-ha and Mai's Nguyen, the Vietnamese family, Dell Duke, the counselor who classifies the students he counsels into groups named The Strange, Misfits, Oddballs, and Lone Wolves (but later has to create new categories as he gets to know Willow, Quang-ha and even himself better), and cab driver Jairo Hernandez.
Pattie moves her family from the garage to Dell Dukes apartment in order to make social services believe she has the ability to care for Willow. This brings about a series of changes that throws everyone’s life into upheaval at times.
But as Willow’s life intersects these other lives, people are changed, and although there’s not a happily-ever-after, there’s a good-enough ending for all of them.
There are some spots that are a bit contrived or where coincidence played too much a part, and there are some parts of Willow’s grief that may not be too realistic, but it’s a good read nonetheless, and a change from the ever popular fantasy or dystopian genre.
The story is told in narrative from each person’s point of view from Pattie to Quang-ha, Mai, Dell,to Jairo, and Willow. It is a bit confusing to be jumping from head to head, but perhaps this is something that is easier to follow in the book than on CD. It’s an unusual style, but it works for this story.
This book is a secular book and has no Christian content about dealing with grief or the hope of Heaven.
If you know of Christian books in which the main character faces the loss of someone close to him/her, please share it in the comments section below.