I remember the days before my daughter was born, I loved a trip to the bookstore. A latte in hand, browsing the latest best-sellers. Now, in life A.K. (after kids), a trip to the bookstore means heading straight to the kids section and hoping to catch a title of one or two of the books on display before reading Olivia books for an hour straight. In several of my recent trips to the bookstore, I saw Counting by 7s. It had been on my TBR list for too long, and I’m happy to say that I have finally read it – and I loved it! Written by Holly Goldberg Sloan, this is one of the best YA books I’ve ever read.
There’s no dystopian society, no vampires, the main character has no love interest, and apparently the target audience for the book is 10 yrs old. Don’t let that dissuade you, Willow Chance is only 12, but she is brilliant and wise beyond her years. She also has nothing in common with any other 12 year old. She’s naturally curious, a gifted gardnerer, and seems to be concerned about the health and well-being of those around here – specifically, diagnosing their problems. One thing that also makes her stand out – she is Vietnamese, and was adopted by an American couple and brought to this country when she was an infant. She was actually orphaned twice – once by her birth parents in Vietnam, and again when her adoptive parents die in a car accident while she is at school one day.
The majority of the story follows what happens next. Her parents had no family or close friends to take her in. Instead, she ends up with the family of a fellow Vietnamese student that she met at the school counselor’s office. She barely knows the other girl, and after going home with her that first night, realizes that she and her brother live with their mother inside a converted garage behind the nail salon where she works. Their school counselor, Dell Duke, becomes closely involved in their lives and making sure that Willow is properly cared for by this family. Her world is obviously changed after the loss of her parents. What’s unexpected is the change she brings to these individuals. This will be one of the darkest times in her life, but she still brings light to those around her.
Beyond her grief, beyond her incredible mind and memory (what originally brought her to Mr. Duke’s office was a perfect score on a standardized test – sparking accusations of cheating), is her ability to see the best in everyone. And that’s what I love most about this book. Mr. Duke himself is kind of a loser, living in Bakersfield, California, is a middle school counselor, bored and uninterested in his job. He lacks the motivation to even dream of a better life. Willow will change that, and it’s something unexpected for both of them.
I loved this book – and you might too! This girl is lost after her parents’ death, and I have felt lost before too. Willow shows incredible courage and resolve in their absence. She grieves, and eventually finds the strength to go on.