Book Review and Music Pairing: Counting By 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan

counting_by_7sCounting by 7s is a heartfelt novel about a genius girl who is an “angel” to many.  Willow Chance, a 12-year-old girl going into middle school has a natural green thumb.  She made chemical analysis of bee poop at the age of seven.  At the age of eight, she raised a baby green parrot and later set it free.  The story opens with her driving up to the driveway of her house to find a police car.  However, she rewinds and tells about her past.  She has always been “highly gifted” and has yet to meet a teacher who understands her or has understood her teacher, for that matter.

Fast-forwarding to the present time, the story transfers to her parents’ perspective.  Her mom is at the doctor getting a small dimple on the left side of her chest checked out.  This dent turns out to be a tumor, and she learns that she has cancer.  On the drive home, in the middle of an intersection, Willow and her parents’ world completely falls apart.  The only thing unharmed was a sign that clattered down saying, “SAFETY FIRST!  Tell me how I’m doing.  I am truck number 807.”  Ironic.

So, when Willow comes home that night, she becomes an orphan.  Though she is immediately taken in by her brand new friend’s mom, Willow feels her life is going downhill.  At this point in the story, I thought of the song “Someone Like You” by Adele.  Although Adele is singing about a relationship between her and her boyfriend, I thought about the song differently.  Willow will never find parents who replicate her deceased ones.  This part of the story was very emotional for me.  Sloan does such a fine job of displaying this mourning that you begin to wonder if her own life inspired this story somehow.  If so, I hope she was able to find “someone like you.”

The resolution, as expected, repaired Willow’s situation, and she was very happy.  Two people came together and made her ends meet.  This is the kind of story that I enjoy.  The narrator expressed Willow’s true feelings.  I feel as though Holly Goldberg Sloan wrote this from her heart.  If this novel was made into a film, the song “Strawberry Fields” by the Beatles should be played.  It represents the theme of “life is a winding path” well.  The lyrics “nothing is real” explores what life would be like with no permanent future.  It could be bad.  Or it could be good.

I would rate this story 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 for its sincere message.

-Maya Salem, 7th grade

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