I absolutely loved this book. The depiction of teenage angst is spot-on. I did get irritated with the heroine, Willow, at times. (That isn’t a bad thing. If every character in every book was likeable all the time, I’m guessing it wouldn’t be that good a book). Her behaviour towards Michael bugged the hell out of me. He tried so hard and it seemed to me that she slighted him at every opportunity. But, wait a second, the death of her Dad when she was younger meant Willow couldn’t handle the idea of getting close to anyone for fear of them leaving her. She didn’t know what was going on with Michael, but she’d heard enough to know getting close to him could lead to further heartache. So, I could empathise with her situation and therefore make allowances for her behaviour towards him. I loved the way the first poem seemed to understand what was going on with her and offered consolation. Brilliant!
I liked Tessa and the way her relationship with Willow developed. They sort of became crutches for each other to lean on without really becoming that close as friends. Also, it was great to read about teenagers who misbehaved and got up to stuff their parents wouldn’t have approved of for a change because, let’s face it, many teenagers do and yet it seems to be omitted in most YA fiction. Also, Knudsen didn’t moralise by needing to have dire consequences lead to their actions.
Michael was a very likeable character – what was not to like? Okay, he did at times talk not-so-much like a teenage boy but more like a fictional character in a romantic novel, but perhaps even this could be justified. (What with him being an arty-poetic type whose philosophy on life was to live each day as if it were his last. He could be who he wanted without caring about consequences - and he wanted to be Mr Romantic.) I think some readers might say that there was a serious lack of development of the relationship between Willow and Michael. It is brief and the beginning and there is a big chunk in the middle of the book where Michael disappears almost completely. I did wish that there was more of Michael in the story. I would have liked to know more about him. However, I think because the story is from Willow’s POV and we are in her head, we only get to see what she sees and know what she knows. She didn’t know much about Michael so neither could we. Is that not great writing?
The portrayal of Willow’s relationship with her mother was very interesting. Again, you see the whole situation through her eyes and it seemed as if her mother was a selfish woman whose child neglect was so bad social services needed to be called in. But, actually, looked at more objectively this was unlikely to be the case at all. Once again, excellent writing!
There was one thing that I had a problem with: Willow sometimes came across as if she wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box and a bit slow on the up-take, even though she was a straight-A student. She seemed to find Michael’s poems too complicated to understand – they weren’t, were they? Even if they were it took her far too long to work out the message embedded in the poem of the Christmas card he gave her - I can’t make allowances for you there Willow. And then there was the bit when Michael had to explain to her why he referred to her as ‘smiley’ - Duh. I just felt she should have been more on-the-ball than that.
As much as I enjoy YA fiction, there aren’t many I have given 5 stars to, but this one is a definite 5 star read in my view.