Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Losing your parents is a tragedy no matter who you are, but for 12-year-old Willow Chance it is the end of everything. Willow is incredibly intelligent and very different from others her age. She is obsessed with plants and diseases and is uncomfortable in social situations. She has no real friends and no extended family.

The sudden death of her loving adoptive mom and dad leaves her to the ministrations of an unlikely group of supporters—an inept school counselor, a struggling immigrant family, and a taxi driver—who slowly find friendship and connection with one other.

Holly Goldberg Sloan has crafted a tender and generous young adult novel full of misfits showing each other grace. Her portrayal of Willow’s grief offers a window into what grieving might look like, as well as what it takes to survive it. No-nonsense Vietnamese nail salon owner Pattie meets Willow, immediately recognizes her isolation, “and her arms [reach] out wide.” Touches of humor and pathos with slight forays into the ridiculous, make the book both entertaining and moving for young readers and adults alike. Ages 10 and up. (Dial)

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