Aug 31, 2011

Review - Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer


Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer
September 12th, 2011 from Harcourt Children's Books

Synopsis:
Willa is lucky: She has a loving blended family that gets along. Not all families are so fortunate. But when a bloody crime takes place hundreds of miles away, it has an explosive effect on Willa’s peaceful life. The estranged father she hardly remembers has murdered his new wife and children, and is headed east toward Willa and her mother.

Under police protection, Willa discovers that her mother has harbored secrets that are threatening to boil over. Has everything Willa believed about herself been a lie? As Willa sets out to untangle the mysteries of her past, she keeps her own secret—one that has the potential to tear her family apart.


Review:
You have to admit, the premise for this story is pretty intriguing. Willa's mother left their small Texas town when she was four to escape Willa's abusive father. Now that Willa is 16, she has adjusted to her new life in the burbs. Two stepsisters and a loving stepfather living in a big house seems to be a picture-perfect life. Of course, we know better. Not everything is as it seems, and Willa's picturesque home life is no exception. She has taken to cutting herself to relieve the ongoing stress of making her family happy and keeping up the facade. After her estranged father goes on a murderous rampage, Willa's life starts crumbling, and so do the paper thin walls that are keeping her family together. 

The cutting issue with Willa came as a big surprise to me. It is introduced early on and I really didn't see it coming. It isn't very gruesome and details are short. Willa sees cutting as a relief, something she can control. The book doesn't focus on the act, and Willa tries to control the urges often. This book is all about family dynamics - the give and take that everyone has to go through to make a family work - happy. Unfortunately, Willa always gives(up) and is content to sit on the sidelines and take sloppy seconds from her stepsisters. I was frustrated for Willa. I wanted her to want something, to stand up for herself. Instead, for awhile anyway, we watch her placate everyone and become a wallflower.

Things start to get interesting when we learn that Willa's lunatic father has gone on a murdering spree, killing his second family. I thought Willa and her family were going to go on the run and into hiding, but that didn't happen. The climatic hunt for her father ends early on in the book and very soon - too soon for me. When his rampage is over, Willa makes a decision to go back to Texas and starts to be an active participant in her own life. She finally makes her own choices based on what she thinks is best. This turns the house upside-down and everyone starts to question everything and their role in the family. This is where it gets good and those little skeletons just start tumbling out of the closet!

Willa heads to Texas and lo and behold, more skeletons (and a crotchety grandmother and older half brother). We really start to learn about who Willa really is and what is important to her when she is away from her mother and step-father. We also learn more about her mother, what she left behind, and the impact it had on her parents when she fled with Willa all those years ago.

While Willa is away...all hell breaks loose back home. Finally! I must admit, I wanted something not so great to happen to those step-sisters. It was hard to watch them be lavished with vacations and gifts while poor Willa gets nothing. My dream didn't exactly come true, but we do get to see a more complex side to the step-sisters as time goes on. Even though Willa was mousy and a fraction of what she could be, it was great to see her break through that shell and start using that pretty little head of hers. Many of us will be able to identify with someone in this book, and we can learn a few things from watching this complex family unravel and slowly weave its way back again.

4 Stars

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15 comments:

  1. Great review. This book was unexpectedly complex, but really compelling, I think, in the way that Willa really believes she has the perfectly, happy, family, when really they are living in a glass house....I enjoyed watching is all come tumbling down.

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  2. I am so jealous that you got an ARC of this. It is one of my most anticipated books of the year. I love Susan Beth Pfeffer. She isn't afraid to write about the tough stuff. I can't wait to get my hands on this book! 2 weeks to go!

    http://yalitwit.blogspot.com

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  3. This seems like it will take me on a roller coaster of emotions. I have not read a book that dealt with the issue of cutting. Great review, very well written.

    http://oboyledbooks.blogspot.com

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  4. does my mom count as "open a door for an old lady" or should I head on over to the old folks home? :)
    cannot wait to read this one!

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  5. Yes, your mom counts! Thank you all for the comments.

    Annette, love your thoughts on the book!

    Jen

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  6. Other than fantasy, I am just being introduced to YA lit through a required MLS course...Books so far have depressed me, but this sounds like a thriller that could turn me into a couch potato for a weekend!

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  7. I always enjoy your reviews and who wouldn't love a book with Texas as a setting. Can't wait to read this one.

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  8. I really enjoyed your review. This looks like a very gripping read. I like the plot very much.

    Kelsey d

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  9. I am looking forward to this book. I was a cutter for a long time. It is not an easy thing to overcome. I don't think I have ever seen it really talked about in a fiction book before. It will be interesting for me to see how the author handles it. You wrote an excellent review. Thanks for bringing the book to my attention. :)

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  10. Enjoyed the review. It seems the premise is slightly misleading. Sounds like it packs a stronger emotional punch.

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  11. I was a big fan of the Life as we Knew it book series, so I am automatically excited for this! Sounds very emotional, can't wait.

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  12. Wow. I'm really interested in this one! I don't usually like to read reviews first but I peeked. :)
    I'm actually not shocked by cutting. Especially when I read these words: "...seems to be a picture-perfect life."

    I'm very interested in reading the book in it's entirety to see how it turns out!

    Thanks for the chance, as always!
    Amy

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  13. I really can't wait to see how Pfeffer handles this topic! I loved the Life as We Knew it trilogy (though the science made be crazy), and I'm so interested to see how she writes a more traditional story.

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  14. Thank you for the awesome chance to win! love this type of book.

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  15. Sounds like an interesting book! I haven't read her other books, but it's awesome that she has books that are not in just one genre!

    That sounds exciting with the father going on a murderous rampage and how Willa deals with that! I like the idea that this book is about the family and her role in it!

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