genre: middle grade
Willow Chance is a special kid. Although middle school turns out to be far less of an experience than she'd hoped, she has her books and her garden to keep her mind occupied. When Willow's own life falls into pieces, she's going to have to either find her own new way to grow or give up and wither - and Willow Chance is a girl who knows how to grow things.
Not only is Willow wicked smart (as in, autism spectrum smart) but she also has a way of finding the special parts of people. She uses her knowledge to create beauty and a kind of harmony that naturally endears her to others. I really liked Willow's voice - I felt like she was genuine and spunky. Her insights were often both thoughtful and poetic. I felt like the plot itself left me working hard to suspend my disbelief (especially near the end - I needed some more explaining) - but because I loved how tender and interesting it was, I made the effort to do so. I loved the themes of growing plant life and reaching one's potential, of the visceral importance of feeling like you belong and how empowering that is.
I can see why people are raving about it. Characters that seem awkward and strange at first really do find a place in your heart, their growth and change is palpable. I liked how Willow was appreciated and loved for who she was - quirky behaviors aside - and that awkwardness was acknowledged and then life just moved on. I loved that she was African American without that being the point of the story - she just was a girl who happened to have dark skin and was full of a zest for life and learning. Some lovely, lovely images in this story. I'd hand it to someone I love.