Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan: A Review


Maybe it’s been too long since I’ve read a YA novel, but this one didn’t quite sit well with me.

I mean, it was good. It was an enjoyable read. I read it quickly.

But I have one overarching problem with the book as a whole: solutions seem to be handed to the characters on a silver platter.

Obviously, not everything is sparkles and rainbows — Willow’s (nice name choice by the way) parents are killed in a car crash and her whole world is overturned. Then she has to stay with an impoverished family living in a garage while dealing with said car crash because she has no other options.

The job of an author is to throw setback after setback towards characters to force them to grow (that’s what is so fun about writing! Mwahahaha!). When we first meet Willow, she faces social challenges only a genius can face as she struggles to understand people and gain friends. And then her parents die and her world is overturned.

Okay, so that’s a lot to face. That’s a devastating, life-changing experience, and Willow does what she can to get through it.

I feel that everything after that, however, somehow works out miraculously for everyone. Everything just falls into place. They somehow stay ahead of the game without any more conflicts.

I found myself particularly hating Dell. I couldn’t figure out what Sloan’s intent was in writing this character. Dell is not a particularly smart guy, that much is clear, and not particularly hardworking, and not particularly sympathetic for a counselor. I think we’re supposed to feel bad for him. I just hated him. He’s just so lazy. Though I appreciate that Willow lights a spark of energy in him, I can’t like a guy who releases a cat onto the streets when he’s done with him.

So Dell lets Pattie and co. take over his apartment? And they get to sleep in real beds while Dell conveniently stays with a neighbor? That’s awfully generous of him.

Don’t even get me started on the ending. To say the least, it’s unrealistic to the point of disbelief.

So I may be getting a little snarky. There were certainly good points to this book, too. It’s great to see inside Willow’s mind. She’s a genius with an undefined social disorder. She’s extremely smart, but book smart — not smart when it comes to people. But she’s so genuine, with good intent, that she’s truly a good person. It’s nice to see how she reacts to everything around her in a different way than most people would.

Maybe I’m just a cynical person. If you like coming-of-age stories or stories about children overcoming handicaps, you will probably like this book. Hell, it got 4.18 stars on Goodreads. That’s pretty damn good. So if the summary strikes your fancy, please go check it out. It just wasn’t for me.


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