Thursday, September 8, 2011

Book Review: Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Book (September 13. 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0547496389
ISBN-13: 978-0547496382
Series: None
Source: Finished copy provided by publisher
Cover: I'm not sure why this cover is so interesting. Maybe it's the bleached out colors or the miserable look on the model's face. Maybe it the bright red title itched across her face like a wound itself. But something about this title really works for me.
First Sentence: "I think even if nothing had happened the next day, even if my life had stayed just as it was that night at supper, I'd still remember what Jack said."

Mini-Review: A like it or hate it type of story, Blood Wounds is Pfeffer's symphony to the meaning of family and blood and how sometimes the two are very different.


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.


I don't think I've read many books where I get to the end and then asking myself if I liked it is such a loaded question.The answer is a resounding yes. The answer is also no. I know I'm being really confusing here but give me a second to explain. Blood Wounds felt less like a novel that was written and more like a novel that had to be written. All of the characters in Blood Wounds are flawed almost beyond repair and while that makes them real, it also makes them complex and faulted. The pacing was a bit slow at first but straightened itself out and by the ending, some closure and wholeness was felt.

What made this novel difficult was that all of the characters were pretty horrible to each other. Poor Willa has lived a life inside the glass tank. She sees all the nice things everyone else round her has but isn't allowed those  luxuries herself. She goes to a well off school, lives in a rich neighborhood and her two half sisters have a wealthy mother that gives them everything. Unfortunately, Willa doesn't have any of that. The background her mother comes form is poor. On top of all this, Willa is also self- destructive in the beginning of the novel. While I felt bad for her, I also felt like she spent a lot of time either not acknowledging her feelings enough or being very ungrateful for what she did have. I'm pleased to report that once she starts to learn about herself, she shapes up to be a very impressive character and her transformation is worth the first bit of selfishness.

As for the rest of the characters, I just couldn't like them very much. No really seemed to care about Willa. Her mother was selfish in the worst kind of way and even though she did what little she could to help Willa, she wouldn't support her in her time of need which is all Willa really needed in the first place. Willa's stepsisters are both spoiled and their relationship with Willa is rife with unease. As for Jack, her stepfather, he really seemed to care about her but only when his ex-wife would let him. I felt like yelling at him the entire time to grow a pair. I did really like Willa half brother by blood, Trace. He was the only person I felt that was genuinely himself, for good or bad. However, all of the supporting characters go through something that changes them and I'm really pleased with the transformation from beginning to end.

What makes this book hard to answer about liking it is that it isn't necessarily a happy book and it's really hard to label. I spent the first 75 pages trying to figure out what kind of book Blood Wounds was. Was it a suspense? Was it a whoa is me type? Where the heck is it going? Once it finally revealed itself to be a recovery book, a book of discovering one's self through the past, I found I couldn't put it down. The transformation was too satisfying. The other thing about this book that is a love it or hate is that it's a sad book. There is a lot of really awful things happening, a family destroying itself literally and figuratively and it isn't pretty or easy to read. For me, the journey proved worth it but for a lot of people, I imagine it won't be.

The struggles and different meanings of the word family, of the word blood, make this novel beautiful but also incredibly sad. No one is perfect and this novel works to drive home this point. People are selfish until the bitter end and sometimes that's all they have. Through character and plot, Blood Wounds laments the evil in every human being like a song on the wind. Like any good sad song, it will move you but at a price that for some might not be worth.


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