06 December 2015


Author: Julie Murphy
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I am kind of torn on this novel.  On one hand, I love the quirky, sometimes confident, sometimes self-doubting Willowdean.  She is someone I can definitely relate to.  Even though I don't have the issue of not being able to find clothes in my size when I go shopping, I do have a hard time finding clothes that fit properly.  I have a small self-esteem issue with my body at times, and it's a struggle for me to maintain my weight.  There are days when I look into the mirror and think I'm beautiful, just the way I am.  There are other mornings when I wake up and hate the pouch of gut that seems to sit atop my waistband.

And while I've never had the strained relationship with my mother and did not grow up in a single parent household, I can relate to Willdean with the loss of her aunt Lucy, whom she loved so much.  Two years ago, I lost my papa, and this year my grandmom.  It's hard to think about moving on and letting go, and to think that that person won't be there in the moments in your life still to come.  In these aspects, I love Willdean dearly, and this novel had me tearing up in a few places.

The friendship between Will and El, however, is the perfect example of why I didn't have more friends that were girls growing up.  A lot of their issues that start to tear apart the fabric of their friendship seem mostly superficial to me, and a lot of passive aggressiveness goes into their actions that creates a snowball effect that I don't think would have happened if they had simply just been honest with each other.  So that kind of annoys me a little, but I do like how it opens up Willow to make new friends with the rag tag band of girls for the beauty pageant, which adds some great material for the story.

Also, this books serves to remind me that I am definitely a prude.  It's still a little shocking for me to read about sixteen-year-olds being in love and having sex.  From just some of Willowdean's actions and thoughts alone, it's obvious that these sixteen-year-olds are still developing who they are and maturing into the adults they want to become.  Man, kids these days just think they grow up so fast.  It's a little terrifying, even if it is the reality.

On that line of thought, Willow's choices with the members of the opposite sex infuriate me even more than her friendship with Ellen.  Willow strikes up a friendship with Mitch, who clearly wants more but is a gentleman at the same time, and lets her set the pace.  But Willow can't seem to get over her crush of Bo, no matter how hard she tries - though she doesn't point this out to Mitch, whom she basically just leads on for the majority of their friendship into thinking they are something more.  And it would be one thing if Bo treated her well, but since the novel is told through Willow's perspective, it's clear that she doesn't think he does.  And yet, she can't let herself get past him!  That really upsets me, when girls can't seem to get over the carnal attraction even if they think a guy treats them like crap (not to say that Bo does treat her like crap, just that she seems to perceive it that way... for the record).  Why would any woman, or person really, put themselves through that purposefully?  I really don't understand.

Overall though, I think Willowdean is the classic character who is inherently flawed, just like the rest of us.  Though some of her decisions and thoughts annoy me, it makes her that much more realistic of a character, which I think it a great reflection on Murphy.  I'm definitely excited to see what she will come up with next, even if I probably won't be purchasing this novel for my personal library.

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