Susan Beth Pfeffer has proved with this book that she is a skilled author. I read her post-apocalyptic series a while ago, and it was a character driven, thoughtful, realistic series. I am surprised she can bring that same thoughtfulness into a very, very different kind of story- one about a young girl struggle with her own demons, both internal demons and very tangible demons. This story made me think about Pfeffer in a whole new light.
Willa and her mother escaped an abusive father and ended up with a very kind man named Jack who only wanted the best for them. Jack and Willa's mothers life is a financial struggle, but Val, Jack's ex-wife, pays for her daughters to do anything they want. While Willa loves her two sisters, it is very clear there is a discrepancy between what they get to do thanks to their mother, and what Willa gets to do because her mom can't afford it. Willa barely remembers her biological father, except his temper. When frantic phone calls followed by a police visit reveal her father, Budge, may have murdered his new wife and children and is on the run, Willa feels she is living in a surreal world.
Budge was spotted outside Ohio, and is on his way towards Willa and her mother. For their own safety, they are moved to a hotel. When Budge arrives at their house, he attacks a police officer and is killed on Willa's front lawn. In a few short hours, Willa's entire life is turned upside down when she learns about his brutal murders, 4 other children, 3 of which he murdered, and the life she and her mother left behind when they ran from Texas. She decides to go back to the town to pay her respects to the family she never knew she had. It is there she learns a lot about her life, both before and after she left Texas. What Willa uncovers will change everything about the way she sees the people around her.
This is a beautiful and terrifying story all in one. The characters are unconventional, and they have very real problems. I had a lot of trouble digesting Willa's mother through most of the story, especially how she literally tread on eggshells around Jack so as to "not ruin anything". But when they stopped acting like a Stepford family and faced the troubles their family was having, I understood why she was the way she was (although I still didn't really like it). The strange relationship between Willa and her sisters was also confusing at first until it became clear they were just as confused and unhappy as she was. These characters really grew and developed as the story went along.
The story is really very deep and dark. It deals with some very heavy material that might be too much for a more sensitive reader. It isn't overly bloody or gory, but the murder is particularly brutal. The toughest part is seeing Willa suffer through so much and internalize her pain so much she turns to cutting in order to make it through each day. You just want to save Willa. You want to slap her parents and make them realize how hurt she is, even before her father came back into her life. Some of the emotions are difficult to decipher at first, but I think that is what makes the story so realistic. Although the reading level of this story would make it suitable for a younger reader, its subject matter might make it better for a more mature reader. And be prepared to have some discussions with your child or student after they are finished. This isn't a book to be taken lightly, and it proves Pfeffer is quite an adaptable author.
This is the second book designated for young readers that I have reviewed for the Amazon Vine program. Since I am in my seventies, with my youngest grandchild rapidly outgrowing this category, I'll admit to a certain sense of inadequacy. The genre of young peoples' literature is really completely changed; indeed, I don't believe such a category actrually existed during my own teenage. Once I learned to read, I began to delve into the types of books my own mother enjoyed, and recall primarily historical novels.
Given that fiat, Pfeffer's book is powerful and realistic. It deals in honest and straightforward terms with the circumstances in which many present-day young people find themselves, including the results of early abuse, the disparity of economic advantage between well-off and impoverished families, and the psychological challenges that accompany these circumstances. I believe that given the present sophistication of young people, the lack of sugar coating, indeed the stark realism of this story, successfully hits the mark. For youngsters involved in similar situations, it would be both gripping and therapeutic. For others, who may have been fortunate enough to avoid this level of trauma, it could provide helpful insights and perhaps induce a growth in compassion.
The story is a fast read, and although I wonder if the resolution at the end is not a bit overly optimistic, it is certainly a strong support for the message that we are hearing more and more with respect to the angst of our culture, that things DO get better if we are only willing to "hang in there". The protagonist, Willa, is portrayed with sympathy and strength, and the other characters, even her murderous father, are treated with humanity. The unavoidable conclusion is that we are all human, even the worst of us, and that love is indeed the essential ingredient that makes being human worthwhile.
on October 3, 2011
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.
on December 21, 2015
Willa's biological father goes on a rampage killing his wife and daughters, and the police think he may be coming from her. Her mom is a wreck and stepfather flies her two step sisters to their mother's fracturing the family Willa believed was so solid. Now she wonders whether her family will ever be whole and happy again, or if they ever were.
BLOOD WOUNDS scratches the surface of some difficult issues and provides easy answer and explanations for complex problems. Susan Beth Pfeffer wrote Willa as a cutter, but her self mutilation left more like an unemotional, poorly researched afterthought that was added to give Willa some depth and perhaps attract an additional audience.
Pfeffer used much more telling and explaining than showing. What should have been a tension filled story felt flat. I never felt like Willa was in danger either physically or psychologically.
THEMES: family, step families, siblings, domestic violence
BLOOD WOUNDS felt like a missed opportunity, a great premised poorly executed.
on October 1, 2011
The description of this book is extremely misleading. I was hoping for a thriller. It's hardly that at all. The first couple of chapters due deal with Willa's father and the horrendous crime he committed. But, it's over so quickly that the focus quickly shifts to the aftermath.
I wasn't ever really sure I liked Willa. I'm not positive the best time to get to know a character is during a crisis like this. But maybe it helps her show her true colors. At times I thought she was snippy and seemed ungrateful. But if forcing the issue was the only way to know her mother's past as well as her own, then so be it. She had been compliant for so long. She put up with her mother refusing to talk about anything and watching her stepsisters have everything handed to her on a silver spoon.
I never really adjusted to the idea of a family drama instead of a thriller. I didn't mind the idea that Willa wants to go the the funeral of her stepsisters, but I disliked how she was just dropped on the doorstep of a family friend for the occasion. Her mom refused to go with her. I was also not prepared for all the her mother had been hiding from her. I think she really grew up believing one thing about her father when almost the exact opposite was true. I disliked how her lawyer told her it was ok to go to the house and take what she wanted and that the family friend practically forced her to go. I don't care that it legally is probably hers.
What I did enjoy that I wish had been explored so much more were the dynamics in the new family. I think there was a lot of buried resentment that we just barely skimmed the surface of. It seemed like everything came out into the open and things were all better. I'm pretty sure things don't work like that in real life. I also didn't like the added fact that Willa cut. It just felt like an extremely unnecessary aspect to the story. Because, you know there wasn't enough going on.
Overall, just a disappointing book. I really had high hopes for this one. I hope they change the description a little because I think many people be let down by it. It gives the idea that the book is about something when it isn't that way at all.
Blood Wounds tells a powerful story about a young girl who finds herself in a family drama ripped straight from the headlines. Her father, who she hasn't seen since she was a toddler, has committed a heinous murder and is on his way to find her. The circumstances surrounding the crime and his subsequent death encourage Willa to find answers about her "blood family", and re-examine her relationships with her step sisters, her step father, and her mother, who has been holding on to a few secrets of her own.
The story itself seems rather thin, even as the author strives to include so many issues in what is really a very fast read. The reader gets to see the impact of socio-economic differences when they occur within the same family. We get a peek inside Willa's deep need to cut herself to release her stress because she has no one else to talk to. We also get a look at issues as disparate as domestic violence and the troubles of blending a family. That's a lot of issues and while in some cases I thought they were very well done, I also felt that they overwhelmed the story itself. I wanted more attention to be paid to expanding the characters, their feelings and motivations.
It was the characters that ultimately prevented me from enjoying this story. I did not like any of them, and felt that their interactions with each other and Willa's inner dialogue's were not believable. Their actions were often infuriating and no clue was given as to why they acted the way they did. They just never seemed to become real people. They served merely as props so the author could unroll this issue driven story that never became as compelling as it should have been.
It occurred to me after finishing this book that perhaps it was designed to appeal to reluctant teen readers. This would perhaps explain the thin characterizations and the effort to include so many emotional issues in so slight a story. For readers with little patience for plot and character development, this will hold some appeal. For teen and adult readers with a bit more experience, this will most likely leave them unsatisfied and wanting more.
Willa knows that her family may not be perfect, but she considers herself pretty happy living in a modest home with her mother, stepfather, and two stepsisters. They all love each other and have a pretty good relationship--Willa never thinks about the abusive father she and her mother left when she was toddler. But he comes back into her life in a violent way when the police show up at her doorstep one day with the tragic and terrifying news that he has killed his new wife and young children...and is on his way from across the country with the intent to make Willa and her mother his next victims.
Blood Wounds is an intense, tension-filled novel that is as much of a suspenseful thriller as it is a family drama. At the very beginning of the novel, Willa's family is portrayed as a happy, busy, slightly stressed normal mixed family, with a few underlying tensions that manifest themselves in Willa's secret habit of cutting. The family's issues are put on the back burner as Willa's father is pursued and eventually stopped, but once he is, the family's drama explodes as the circumstances expose all of the lies, half-hidden truths, pent-up resentment, and hurt that every member has been harboring for years. Willa learns the extent to which her stepsisters' mother controls her life, and is finally open about the financial inequality between her and her stepsisters and how it upsets and affects her. Willa does stand strong in demanding to attend her half-siblings' funeral, despite her mother's objections, and she learns a lot about her parents' pasts and what might have led to the unspeakable tragedy that befell her family.
Through everything that happens to her, Willa remains strong, and in the face of near poverty, manages to do what she believes is right for everyone involved, The result isn't a rosy, serendipitous solution, and her family isn't completely content, but they are much more honest with each other and on their way to establishing an even stronger relationship. Pfeffer has created a complicated and thought-provoking novel where the bad guy isn't perhaps the most obvious character and the result is a story that will stick with you for a long time.
on June 5, 2013
This YA novel is the perfect marriage (no pun intended) of my love for realistic books about teenagers and my love for true crime stories. Although most readers will not experience the devastating turn of events in this book, many readers will relate to the quest for belonging and figuring out what a "real family" is. I read this book based on my love for Pfeffer's "Life As We Knew It," and although this one is worlds away in terms of plot, the characters were similarly complex. I am glad Pfeffer stays away from the 24-7 romantic angst of most YA heroines.
on November 10, 2012
I don't know why I've come to this conclusion but it seems to me that Pfeffer can only write about sadness and profound loss. Not to demean her abilities, Blood Wounds is well written, but just as in her previous series there's bad and then there's worse followed by periods of okay. Looking for an uplifting story, this is not it.
I loved Life As We Knew it (and also enjoyed the accompanying novels), so I found this book to be somewhat of a disappointment. Pfeffer is dealing with several heavy emotional themes here--blended families, adolescent angst, "cutting" and murder (specifically, infanticide). Willa (love the name) is a nice girl a junior in high school, who gets good grades and is very respectful. She lives with her mom and her husband and his two daughters who are very priviledged (thanks to their high-dollar earning mom). One day, Willa's father, a man she really has little memory of, is on the run (from Texas; Willa lives in Pennsylvania), accused of killing his wife and two of his children and kidnapping one other.
I feel like the story could have been more filled out, and we could have gotten to know some of the characters better. Brooke and Alyssa, the stepsisters are very stereo-typically "stepsisters," Willa's older brother from texas, Trace is drawn much the same way. Willa is just too godd to be true, and even when she starts to "let loose" she is immediately reigned in by either an adult character or her own conscience. The discussions on self harm or "cutting" are just too superficial. I felt like there could be so much more to this story, especially coming from a writer as talented as Pfeffer. The length of the book is a testament to this. My copy (an advanced reader copy) was large type and double spaced adn came in at 248 pages! Perhaps feedback will change the editing on this one before the book is actually released, or maybe Pfeffer feels her target audince (teens 14/9th grade and up)won't be interested in reading a longer book,which is really a shame, because I think most readers would love the story to be longer or continue past the present ending, with the excellent story line Pfeffer has created. It just didn't ring true, with myself or my 14 yo daughter who read it before me. We were both easily able to read the book over the course of a day. However, all that being said, this might be a great book fro a teen who isn't a big reader and who has some issues similar to the ones here. Not a bad book, just not Ms.Pfeffer at her finest.