Rummanah Aasi
 In the tradition of many classic and critically acclaimed middle grade novels, Counting by 7s is a bittersweet novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.
Description: Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn't kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.
  Suddenly Willow's world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.
Review: Willow Chance is wonder character, extremely precocious and tween genius. Her quirky habits and interests make her endearing to the reader but not to her peers. Though deeply passionate about her interests, she can't fit in with other kids her age. Unlike many of us, Willow isn't all that bothered by being seen as an outcast since she has a stable home and adoptive parents who love her but this sense of security is shattered when her parents die in a car crash. Now without any signs of familiarity, Willow is lost and emotionally numb.
  Counting by 7s is a story of renewal, self discovery, and what defines a family. Instead of solely focusing on Willow's social difficulties and her different stages of grief, we are treated to the various ways Willow makes a great and inspiring impression on everyone around her-whether it's Dell Duke, a lonely and ineffectual school district counselor, or Jairo Hernandez, the taxi driver Willow hires to drive her to her meetings with Dell. Willow even manages to befriend a high schooler named Mai Nguyen who persuades her mother to take Willow in; despite the Nguyens' poverty, their makeshift home and open arms help bring Willow back from the void.
  Counting by 7s is a feel good story, but at times I felt Sloan relied on creating convenient plot points to move her story along and the pacing dragged in the middle. I think the story could be told just as strongly in 200-300 pages instead of the 400. The narration shifts among multiple viewpoints, from Willow's cerebral first-person perspective to third-person chapters that demonstrate how her presence is transformational to those around her, young and old. I appreciated the fact that Sloan chose a diverse cast of characters, but I wish the author would have let the readers come to their own conclusion of the importance of helping one another instead of wrapping things up too tightly. Overall, Counting by 7s is a good pick for book club for older elementary school students.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for strong Grade 4 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Emma-Jean Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis
5 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    This was a big book at BEA last year and I was curious about it but of course never picked it up because I'm easily distracted by other books:) I'm glad that despite maybe needing a little tightening up in the middle so it doesn't drag, it was a solid read overall for you Rummanah!

  2. At least it has a strong, positive message even if it does get a little lengthy. I am glad the book isn't weighed down heavily by the death of the parents.

  3. Candace Says:

    I do enjoy MG books with precocious characters. This one sounds like one I might really enjoy. I'll keep my eye out!

  4. I can see what you mean about wrapping things up too tightly. I had a book like that not too long ago. Still, sounds like a pretty good kids book!

  5. Oh, this sounds like an interesting read. Does the book mention if Willow has been diagnosed with anything, Rummanah? I'm currently taking a course on autism and from the synopsis, it kind of sounds like she has ASD.

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