Rating: 4.5 stars
Cover Rating: 4 stars (That girl is pretty terrifying.)
Genre: Young Adult
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: September 13, 2011
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Page Count: 248 p.
Happy families are not all the same, they're just better at faking it. Happy families hide the anger and resentment right below the surface, waiting for it to boil over.
Willa has a happy family. She has a stepfather and sisters, but they are all happy and love each other. Everything seems fine, until Willa's real father murders his family and comes for her. She doesn't really remember him and didn't know he had little girls, didn't know she had half sisters. Willa decides that she has to go to where her parents came from and mourn those little girls. She has to find her roots, what she's made of. Even her happy family isn't enough for Willa until she can go dig in the past and find out the truth about her life that she's forgotten.
This book took me in so many directions. I thought the manhunt would last a lot longer than a few pages. Susan Beth Pfeffer did an excellent job with the pacing of this novel though. I was hooked from the very first sentence, and didn't stop reading until the story was over. Each character was so perfectly crafted. I could picture each one of them clear as day and even overheard their voices while they conversed. Willa was an odd character in this novel. Not really belonging any where she went. That's mostly the reason she went back to where she was born, to figure out who she was and where she might fit in. She knows so little about her and her mother's lives before the stepfamily. Her mother keeps so many secrets under the guise of protecting Willa, but she really is just protecting herself. Willa is a very strong girl though, and it was a pleasure to watch her on her journey to finding out what she wants and how she feels. At times she did show some weakness(cutting) but I still feel like she was so solid, and this was a logical way for her to feel some relief. Sometimes people can become content with their lives so they never really notice when they don't have all the things they want. Cracks started showing in Willa's contentment though, before her father even came into the picture. Little things, like voice lessons and plane tickets, started wearing away at Willa's supposed happiness. Every family has flaws. Even if everyone is actually happy, there are always moments when things aren't perfect. This novel explores those flaws and what it means to be a family. Willa is faced with a lot, she has blood relatives that seem like bad eggs and step relatives that seem sweet as a peach. Both sides have flaws though, and Willa is a combination of all the good in the bad of both sides. Blood is one thing, but family is another.
"I think even if nothing had happened the next day, even if my life had stayed just as it was the night at supper, I'd still remember what Jack said."
"It was a damp gray day, but there was a gentle spring breeze that spoke of better times."