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Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan. Read by Robin Miles. 7.25 hrs. CD. Dreamscape Media, 2013. (9781624069024).
Willow Chance is 12. She is also a weirdo and a genius. She only dresses in earth tones because she wants to have camouflage. She is obsessed with plants, and she counts by 7s to calm herself. Willow’s parents give her a new start at a new school to try to make friends. Her first classroom experience is that she takes a standardized test and is punished for cheating after she gets a perfect score. She wasn’t cheating, she’s just a genius. So she is sent to the ‘bad kid school’ during the day to see an inept counselor. There she meets two Vietnamese siblings.  Shortly after, both her parents die in a car crash. Now she has lost two sets of parents, because she was adopted in the first place. The Vietnamese kids end up taking her in for temporary foster care. The craziness that ensues is both sad, hopeful, funny, and heartfelt.
This book was amazing. I think Willow may be autistic based on her parents and the school’s treatment of her, but it never says. I like how everything is compared to ecosystems, growth, and interconnectedness. I like how each character is his own person with weird quirks that lend themselves to the plot. I like that the character makes it through extraordinary but realistic circumstances and comes out whole.
The narrator did a very good job with pacing and the expression of emotions for Willow. When she is trying to think through thinks, the voice is slow, unsure and drawn out. When she is panicking, the voice is fast and almost hysteric. The differentiation in voices between characters wasn’t amazing, but because of the text and the big differences in the language each character uses, it wasn’t hard to tell who was being narrated. But for hearing the nuances in Willow’s different moods and the pacing of the story in general, the narrator was fantastic.
Read-alikes: Wonder by Palacio, Rules by Lord, Mockingbird by Erskine, Emma-jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Tarshis, Out of My Mind by Draper, Eight Keys by Lafleur, Anything But Typical by Baskin, Rain Reign by Martin, The London Eye Mystery by Dowd.