“It has been my experience that rewarding and heartbreaking often go hand in hand.”
“A genius shoots at something else no one can see and nails it." This quote defines this book. I had gotten this book a few months ago from scholastic based on the fact it was titled, "Counting by 7s". Seven has always been my favorite number and it was an impulse buy for me. None of my other colleagues or students had read it so I was shooting blind. That is why the above quote is so meaningful to me; the book revealed itself to be absolute GENIUS.
Looking on Goodreads, I know I appear to be an easy reviewer. In fact, almost all books reviewed are 4-5 stars but this is also because anything that is not good, I stop reading. I gave myself permission to do this , I now readonly for pleasure.
Counting by 7s starts out to be a book about a little girl who loses her parents tragically. It is, in fact, so much more than that one event. It is a hopeful tale that leaves you smiling at the end.
Willow Chance is the adopted daughter of parents she adores. She is also obsessed with the number 7, plants and diseases. She is a genius and comes with all the awkward baggage of one who is bound by spending time learning about things as opposed to learning how to fit in to society.
Willow is all at once, unique, brilliant, and endearing. As the book moves on, the story unfolds revealing beauty and flaws that are so realistic in a wonderful story that envelopes you from the first line. Additionally, Ms. Sloan writes her characters in such a way that you can both identify and truly see them as real people. Her characters are three-dimensional!
Due to her brilliance and preoccupation with the specific things she views as important, she has never been a stellar student, so when she scores a 100 on a state test that no one has ever scored perfect on, in 17 minutes; she is viewed as a cheater. As such, she is forced to engage in counseling sessions with Dell Dukes, a bumbling, overweight therapist who is not just incompetent; he is downright lackadaisical.
Right away Dell realizes she is brilliant and different, he has no “special category for her”. However, he still so narcissistic he fails to figure out how to engage with her. He does not even understand how to engage with others his own age. As the book progresses, his experiences with Willow and those who come to be a part of her world change him. This change feels real and important, not contrived or silly. “Every person has lots of ingredients to make them into what is always a one-of-a-kind creation.”
After the death of her parents: “A second can feel like forever if what follows is heartbreak.” This sudden and tragic incident, with its unplanned and unforeseen circumstances, Dell is drawn into Willow's world along with Mai, and her dysfunctional angry brother, Quang- Ha who is also in counseling with Dell.
This book is very optimistic mainly due to Willow and the strong women she meets in her life,; Mai and her Mother Patti: “She is like me. Silent. I admire that in a person. The ability to keep your mouth shut is usually a sign of intelligence. Introspection requires you to think and analyze. It's hard to do that when you are blabbing away.”
Mai and Patti help her learn to grieve, accept and become a part of the world. This happens while Willow in her own unique way helps Dell, Mai, Patti, and her son Quang Ha, engage and interact with each other on a much deeper level. “And just being there is ninety-nine percent of what matters when your world falls apart.”
This book is pure genius, my review cannot give it justice, too much happens in it and for me to give you too much of the plot is to take that experience from your reading. “When you care about other people, it takes the spotlight off your own drama.”
Honestly, I could not put this book down, I read the first 225 pages in a little over an hour at a children’s softball game, stopping only to watch my daughter. I then went home and finished it. It is a magically woven tale. Now I want to plant a garden, and find myself seeing the number 7 in everything. I now sometimes see the number 7 as red; which is weird because it has always been a green number to me.
“And endings are always the beginnings of something else.”