Willow Chance is her own person. She may be a little different, a little distant, a little odd. But. There is something truly special about her. At the end of the first chapter, Willow returns home with the school counselor and two other new friends, to discover the police are waiting to tell her horrible news: both of her parents are dead. Willow has no other family; there aren't even any family friends that she knows about, that she could stay with. Mai and Quang-ha her new friends step up and volunteer. They lie. They say their families have known each other for years; of course, Willow will have a home with them, at least temporarily. The school counselor knows the truth, of course, he introduced them not so very long ago, but he stays silent. The novel then goes back to show what happened before: how Willow started the school year, how Willow "needed" counseling, how Willow made some new friends, why Willow suddenly got inspired to learn Vietnamese, how knowing Willow has changed the lives of two different men (the school counselor; a taxi driver). The reader also learns about the accident in greater detail. (Some of the details leading up to the event disappointed me; I thought it was too much.)
My favorite character in Counting by 7s was not Willow Chance. Willow's influence on other people is encouraging, proof that she is special, but Willow's narration alone did not win my heart. My two favorite characters were Mr. Dell Duke, the school counselor, and Jairo Hernandez, the taxi-driver. I enjoyed the other characters as well: Mai, Quang-ha, and their mother, Pattie.
The novel's greatest strength is in its quirkiness. It never felt sentimental. This is not your typical "sad book" about death and grief. There is humor and hope and courage.
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews