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Counting by 7s

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Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life...until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

380 pages, Hardcover

First published August 29, 2013

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About the author

Holly Goldberg Sloan

13 books1,263 followers
Holly Goldberg Sloan was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and spent her childhood living in California, the Netherlands, Istanbul, Washington, DC, and Oregon (where she graduated from high school). She wrote the screenplay for Angels in the Outfield and directed The Big Green, as well as a number of other successful family feature films.

The mother of two sons, Holly lives with her husband (the writer/illustrator Gary Rosen) in Santa Monica, California. I'll Be There was her debut novel. Her next book, Counting By 7s, was Amazon's best novel of the year for middle grade. Her book Just Call My Name is a follow up to I'll Be There and takes place several months after the ending of the first novel.

Appleblossom the Possum was written by Sloan and Illustrated by Rosen and comes out of Sloan's love for Charlotte's Web. Her next novel will be published in January of 2017 from Dial/Penguin Random House.

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Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews1,984 followers
August 20, 2013
Original review posted on The Book Smugglers

Warning: this review contains spoilers

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when I fell out of love with Counting by 7s but it happened slowly yet inexorably in the hours after I finished reading it.

On the surface, this is an innocuous book, full of good intentions: it is a book featuring different stories about diverse PoC characters (including its protagonist). It is also a beautiful story about different kinds of families, about deep connections that can be formed between people from different walks of life and above all, it is about surviving adversity. It is a touching story that made me laugh and that made me cry. But it also made me ponder and question its main message.

Counting by 7s’ main character is Willow Chance, a little girl who has lost two sets of parents in her short life – she never knew her blood parents and her adoptive ones die in a terrible accident. She is all alone in the world apart from Dell, a school counsellor whose therapy methods are completely unprofessional; and from a couple of new friends she has met recently. Those friends are the siblings Mai and Quang-ha (who is also seeing Dell for his disruptive behaviour) who end up convincing their mother Pattie to take care of Willow temporarily.

Willow is a special person: she is a 12-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and with diagnosing medical conditions and who has found it difficult to deal and connect to people until this tragedy has forced her to.

The story is centred on Willow’s specialness – despite her oddness she is extremely endearing and moves everybody around her that they all end up changing their lives for the better. It is a touching story that made me laugh and that made me cry. But it also made me ponder and question its main message.

It is not for nothing that the official blurb compares it to Wonder by R J Palacio: it has a similar motif, a similar structure (head-jumping) and it provoked a similar reaction on me.

I had three main problems with the novel: Dell’s counselling theories that go basically unchallenged; the novel’s ending; and its strange relationship with money.

Dell – Dell is a terrible counsellor who doesn’t really know what he is doing and who often tries to exploit the system, who at first tried to exploit Willow’s knowledge for his own gain and who has a way of labelling his patients in an extremely problematic way. For some reason, schools sent him their worst cases and he does absolutely nothing to help them. In fairness, Dell is NOT supposed to be a good counsellor but he is shown in a fairly sympathetic light that is also supposed to be endearing and funny. Willow calls him out on the way that he labels the kids he sees but this is as far as the narrative goes on really challenging his role – in the end, he is shown as having grown and changed but no word is said about the kids whose lives he has affected negatively and who he was supposed to have helped. That his therapy method worked for Willow (because of her specialness) does not mean anything in a wider context but is everything that the novel is worried about.

The ending: in the end, Pattie ends up adopting Willow. Now, up until the very ending of the novel, Pattie was shown as a resourceful, intelligent, caring woman who loves her kids and who cares for Willow deeply. She is also someone who struggles to make ends meet, who runs her own small business but who still has financial problems. Her and her two kids live in a one room garage with no bathroom or kitchen. She shares a bed with her daughter. It is hinted that their living conditions is one of the main reasons why her son is having behaviour issues. They are presented as extremely poor which only makes their attempt to help Willow all the more heart-warming.

Then in the end it is revealed that Pattie is actually RICH, that she has been saving money all this time and has enough to buy an ENTIRE APARTMENT BUILDING. This is grating and confusing within the context of the novel because the Pattie that was presented to the reader throughout the novel is not someone who would impose such hardships (living in a garage!) on her own children for NO GOOD REASON. That she’d only reveal her money after her love for ULTRA SPECIAL Willow and not her own children serves only to reinforce Willow’s specialness.

Which brings me to my last point.

The Money issue: one of the main topics of the novel is the question of poverty and how it affects peoples’ lives. Surviving adversity despite poverty is one of the main drives of the novel and one of the connecting points between characters. In the end, the revelation that Pattie had tons of money all along and all of their money problems are magically solved undermines the topic of dealing with poverty. Plus, ANOTHER CHARACTER ALSO WINS THE LOTTERY BY THE WAY. He turns out to be the guy who is going to be the little girl’s adoptive father.

The book is so focused on Willow’s specialness that it forgets the rest of the world (like the other kids with equally real problems that Dell is supposed to be helping), backtracks on the portrayal of the rest of their characters and detracts from a powerful storyline about poverty to shower money on just about everybody.

I think it is that type of book that tries so hard to be about GOOD PEOPLE and it’s so well intentioned that I feel like a jerk for writing this review. In a way it is just like those “feel good movies of the year” that so often have problematic underlying messages that almost escapes your attention because you are injected with such a huge dose of happy-inducing saccharine storylines. But when you come down from that high, you hit rock bottom fast and furious.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for jv poore.
609 reviews203 followers
June 4, 2021
This is one of those treasures recommended for ages 10 and up that I believe everyone can thoroughly enjoy, not just older elementary and middle-grade people.

I can't imagine the person who would not be charmed, then completely smitten with young Willow, who at the tender age of 12 has her world shattered. An admirable and awe-inspiring person Before, her strength, courage and resolve After show the reader what a real-life super-heroine is all about.

Even cooler, we see her spirit, determination and natural kindness pour out and touch so many. Those touched by Willow intuitively and impulsively stand a little straighter, try a little harder and become more generous.

Few books have the ability to render sobs, then a smile, but this one does. I would chastise myself for letting this sit on my shelf for so long, instead I'm going to consider the timing serendipitous, because now I can pass this jewel on to my son's middle-grade classroom library.
Profile Image for Donalyn.
Author 7 books5,907 followers
July 8, 2013
My friend, Colby, has been raving about this book for months, but I was afraid it would make me cry. It did, but not in the ways I expected. This heartbreaking story is filled with laughter, hope, and light. Willow is an unforgettable character and her story will resonate with anyone who has suffered loss or change. The secondary characters are interesting and well-drawn. In a sea of great middle-grade books this year, Counting by 7s is a standout.
Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,014 reviews1,051 followers
October 25, 2017
“When you care about other people, it takes the spotlight off your own drama.”

I didn’t give the cover much thought aside from thinking it’s cute but after reading the book, just looking at it forms a lump in my throat that if I didn’t control would certainly leak out of my eyes. *sniffs* Willow, an incredibly smart young girl represents the lone red fish in the cover swimming in a different direction as she loses her sense of balance, direction and meaning after the accident that took the life of both her parents in a single day. Counting by 7s has always been her sort of stability, her comfort until the accident happened and a huge chunk of her brightness toward her own life has snuffed out.

“And that is why the deepest form of pain comes out as silence.”

I’m not giving the book five stars because some parts of the plot and even Willow’s character are quite unbelievable but I’m very forgiving in this case because it’s a middle grade book. What I did love about Willow is her keen and spotless scientific, usually very funny observations and how she brings changes to the lives of the people she touched. Here are just some of her very insightful observations:

“Teenage boys are so easily amused.”

“It has been my experience that rewarding and heartbreaking often go hand in hand.”

“I experienced syncope, a transient loss of consciousness, more commonly known as passing out. Yes, I fainted.”

“I wish I that I were old enough to just go live in the Amazon and study the plants there, because it is possible that one of them holds the key to the cure for cancer.”

“I will try to convey a positive attitude, while at the same time monitoring my blood pressure and vital signs. There have been cases of stress-induced cardiomyopathy, which also is known as broken heart syndrome.”
(I’ll quote the entire book if I could)

And even though the rest of the characters are slightly stereotyped, it didn’t stop me from enjoying their memorable roles in the story and how together, they form a connection and bond even stronger than that of a family. This middle school book is actually a health book, an encyclopedia, a dictionary, a psychological reference and a literary read all in one and that will make you laugh and cry alternately. Middle school reads never fail me.
Profile Image for Patricia.
2,257 reviews43 followers
December 16, 2013
I work at an elementary school and over the years I've met hundreds of children. The vast majority of them lie in the great bell of the bell curve, but there have been a smattering of outliers over the years. They've been weird, because that's what it means to be hanging out on the edges of the curve, and for some of them I've taken a deep breath, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best for them in middle school. Because their weird makes them fabulous kids and will make them fabulous adults. But sometimes weird isn't the best thing to bring along for your adolescence.

So it is for the main character of our book. She's twelve and she's delightfully weird. I totally fell in love with her. She has no friends, but has such a stalwart attitude, and such high hopes for middle school, that I couldn't do anything but love her. Things happen and her plight is a bit worrisome, but she just keeps going.

This is a great YA book for adults. I'm not really sure the YAs themselves will like it. The writing struck me as an older YA, but I'm not sure the older YAs will want to read about a 12-year-old girl. Perhaps the audience is other highly advanced 12-year-old girls? But forget the YAs. You grownups will love this.

Also. In the acknowledgements, Sloan listed 7 teachers who made a difference in her life. I would like to add my list. Mr. Widermire (McKinley Elementary), Mr. Kaufman (West Jr. High), Mrs. Brown (West Jr. High), Ms. Clark (Borah High School), Mr. Sullivan (Borah High School), Mrs. McCurdy (Borah High School), Dr. Cottrell (Cottey College).
Profile Image for Rosh [busy month; will catch up soon!].
1,363 reviews1,219 followers
February 24, 2022
In a Nutshell: Well, I liked this more than I expected. Having zero expectations helped, I guess.

Twelve year old Willow Chance is a genius in many fields but finds it difficult to connect with people. When her adopted parents die in a car crash, she is left alone in a world where there’s no one to understand her. How Willow gets back on her feet again with the help of a motley assortment of people forms the crux of the story.
The book is written in the first person perspective of Willow and third person povs of many other key characters.

What I liked about the book:
✔ This was a very fast-paced read, despite its choppy writing style. I didn’t feel the 380 pages at all. It was easy to complete this within a day.

✔ The start is a bit challenging as the narrative goes on jumping from topic to topic, and also from person to person. (Reminded me of every single conversation with my kids where we begin with one topic and end up with a totally different topic after a few minutes.) But once I got used to this writing pattern, I began enjoying the quick jumps across perspectives. It was challenging, but it added to my fun.

✔ Most of the secondary characters are outstanding. Willow’s Vietnamese friend Mai and her brother Quang-ha, and Willow’s counsellor Dell Duke have impactful characters that make a mark. Dell’s journey was the most interesting for me.

✔ There’s a lot of subtle humour in the book which adds a touch of levity to the dark themes of grief and adjustment.

✔ Willow’s character seems to be on the autism spectrum, though the book doesn’t make any mention of this. Her struggles to converse normally, to adapt to the upending of her routine life after her parents’ sudden deaths, to fit into the new pattern and to let go of her grief were all very touching to me. I loved her character’s name: Willow Chance. Willow is as multi-talented, strong, and adjustable as the tree she's named after. Moreover, as per Chinese symbolism, the willow tree symbolizes the sorrow of parting and also the celebration of new life. This idea also suits Willow’s character perfectly.

✔ There are so many beautiful lines in the book that connected very strongly with my heart and mind. Here are some favourites:
🌟 “When you care about other people, it takes the spotlight off your own drama.”

🌟 “For someone grieving, moving forward is the challenge. Because after extreme loss, you want to go back.”

🌟 “Every person has lots of ingredients to make them into what is always a one-of-a-kind creation.”

🌟 “Maybe that happens when you've been through a lot. All of your edges are worn off, like sea glass. Either that, or you shatter.”

🌟 “I'm not brave; it's just that all other choices have been thrown out the window.”

What I found okay about the book:
⚠ I am not sure how I feel about the representation. While there are characters of various backgrounds, their portrayals are mildly stereotypical at times. Willow herself is of a mixed race, though her exact background isn’t revealed.

⚠ There are many happy coincidences and far-fetched occurrences in the story, especially in the second half. Then again, this is the usual case in most children’s fiction. Suspension of logic is the key to enjoyment.

⚠ As a MG-YA fiction, the book works on some levels and misses out on others. Its main protagonists are all within the teen age range, and they deal with problems bravely and intelligently. However, there are many plot points that are left unexplained. Very young children might not question things too much but teenagers will surely realise the missing gaps in logic. Also, as an adult reader, I enjoyed the abrupt changes in perspective. They kept me alert while keeping me in connect with all the key characters. But I'm not sure how younger teens reading this book might adapt to this.

What I disliked about the book:
❌ Willow’s character is said to be passionate about two things: medical issues and gardening. (Three, if you include her passion for the number 7.) But in addition to being ultra-talented in these areas, she is also a master linguist, a math whiz, a stock market expert, a master computer technician, an expert at drafting business proposals, and God knows what else. Went a bit over the top, maybe? Even geniuses have their limits, don’t they? The only area where Willow seemed to struggle was in communicating effectively with other people. A related negative feedback point about Willow is that she rarely sounds her age in the book.

❌ Mai and Quang-ha’s mom Pattie had a memorable portrayal until just before the final scene. That scene was so against character and so unbelievable that it almost spoiled the entire experience for me. The ending is highly disappointing mainly because of this ‘deus ex machina’.

❌ There are some things that stay unanswered even after the end.

All in all, this is the story of some flawed humans who try to make the best of what they can with what they have. It isn’t a perfect book, but it does have its moments. I enjoyed the first half better than the second half, but except for the exaggerated ending, I have no major complaints. The biggest plus for me was that it kept me invested throughout the story and didn't slow down any time.

3.75 stars.

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Profile Image for Bharath.
570 reviews434 followers
February 22, 2022
I have to admit that this book turned out to be quite different from what I thought it would be. I am used to slow stories provided they develop characters and get somewhere. This just did not work for me, and I suppose listening to an audiobook quite probably made it worse.

Willow Chance is a gifted 12-year old, who among other things, likes counting in 7s. She has a deep interest and knowledge in many things - especially soils, plants & medical conditions. She is an adopted child and tragedy strikes when her parents are killed in an accident. She is then introduced to the school counsellor Dell Duke, who finds her very intriguing. She comes to rely on her friends Mai and Quang-ha, their mother Pattie, and Jairo, a taxi driver. She moves in temporarily with Patti, Mai and Quang-ha. They, however, live in a shed and it is not easy to introduce another entrant to the place (there is some further revelation to this as the story progresses). There is also Jairo, a taxi driver.

The story by itself had potential, it has nice characters and an uplifting message. The narration of Willow Chance, especially, just does not feel real – it comes across as mechanical and pretentious. Though the story moves slowly, you never get a sense of feeling it, nor do the characters develop well. Though largely predictable, I did like the way the story ended though.

My rating: 2.75 / 5.
Profile Image for Shelley.
2,268 reviews147 followers
October 29, 2013
An excellent introduction to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl phenomenon for kids. Watch the quirky, plucky, feisty, vocabulary obsessed orphan genius change the lives of everyone around her, just by existing. Whoo.

Obviously, not wowed. It had a very magical world sort of feel to it, a bit of fairy tale in its oddness. They kept saying she was a genius, but except for a few offscreen things (passing tests for adults), you never felt that. Also, before her parents' deaths (which, how odd to have the diagnosis scene right before that? So this was probably all going to happen no matter what?), she sort of seemed to have OCD (ie, counting by 7s to calm herself) and perhaps be on the spectrum. Yet when her world falls apart, she doesn't continue these behaviors? They're coping techniques. Commonly found when one is trying to cope with things. Like life becoming unrecognizable. That felt odd. The whole thing felt odd. Probably closer to 2.5 stars, but I'm giving a slight benefit of the doubt because the e-ARC I read was formatted so poorly, which didn't help.
Profile Image for Neil (or bleed).
957 reviews738 followers
February 27, 2016
I totally adored this book and its characters.

Counting by 7s is absolutely a heartwarming novel that tells a realistic and profound story of a girl who lost her adoptive parents in a car accident. A coming-of-age novel that shows the growth and understanding of a little girl towards life and the people around her. A sweet and sad story of a genius child who just wants to make friends and love them and be loved back.

I bought this book for the fact that the main character, Willow Chance, is a genius. You know, I have a fascination about genius people and wished I was one. But damn, I'm not. Well, I was a top student from elementary up to college during my school days (yep so braggy lol) but that was it. I still don't know a lot of things. I want to be that kind who can answer everything with conviction and eloquence but poor me, I can only answer questions that don't required a critical-thinking mind. Hahaha.

Okay. Enough of the drama.

As I've said, Willow Chance is a genius or an above average child. I like her automatically. And I like how almost everything interests her. At first she's like a common child out there who do the things she wants but after her parent's car accident, it is prominent as the story progress how she grows as a child, who just don't think about scientific and intellectual ideas but also wonders about peoples' emotions. She is truly adorable and admiring. And the affection between her and the other characters is making my heart beats a little faster for the surge of emotions I didn't expect to come.

Yes, this book centered on Willow but this book also touches real life issues, such as adoption/fostering a child, continuing education, livelihood, psychology and all others. It has a well-balanced amount of drama and humor that made my reading experience so good.

Counting by 7s also carries inspirations and realizations in terms of reaching your dreams, of not losing hope, of the love, care and happiness brings by your family and friends.

It is truly a remarkable book for me.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,923 reviews35.4k followers
October 26, 2015
"It said I was highly gifted.
Are people lowly gifted?
Or medium gifted?
Or just gifted? It's possible that all labels are curses. Unless they are cleaning products.
Because its my opinion it's not really a great idea to see people as one thing.
Every person has lots of ingredients to make them into what is always a one-of-a-kind creation.
We are all imperfect genetic stews. ( THIS WAS MY FAVORITE QUOTE.... and near the first half of this book -- so I wasn't tired -YET- of this child's chatter)

Willow loves plants, the color red, observing medical conditions, and counting by 7's. She loved he parents deeply.
They die in a car crash in the first chapter. That's it' ( not much else on that topic).
??? Ok???

On to an almost separate story... starting chapter 2:

Willow is just beginning middle school. Her life at school gets enmeshed with her school counselor, Dell Duke, the Nguyen family, and variety of characters....that has us look at race, and different cultures.
Willow was accused of cheating on a state Standardize Test. She didn't.
She is ridiculously bright (savant, possibly Aspergers). Most kids - and adults -might benefit having a dictionary near by to keep up with Willow.

This is a book which celebrates being different. It's also a story which inspires others to
have passions, interests, do personal research, and make a difference in life.
Yet... I wouldn't have related to Willow - at all- if I was a kid.

I felt this book was 'pushed-to-be-perfectly-politically-correct'! It looked obvious to me...
and it got in the way of being more enjoyable to me.

I listened to the audiobook ... I felt being 'talked to'... ( passed the time while walking and such)
but I never really 'warmed' to any of the characters ... (But some of the lines were funny,
and parts of the story were unique).

Overall..I felt this book was 'fair' ( for me: as an adult). If I were a kid... I doubt I'd like it much more.

Profile Image for Sam Bloom.
950 reviews15 followers
October 8, 2013
There is no such thing as a perfect book.
But I believe pretty strongly that there IS such a thing as the right book at the right time for the right person.
Counting by 7s was the right book at the right time for me. And for that reason I will probably love it forever.
But it certainly isn't a perfect book. In fact, there were some issues that, at many times, would have been deal breakers for me.
Like the author's apparent aversion to paragraphs. What's wrong with writing in paragraphs? Why the need to write in one- or two-sentence paragraphs? That got old pretty quickly.

Also (and I feel I've made my point with the single-line paragraphs, so I'm going to write normally now... you're welcome) Willow was way, way too adult at times. And the ending came together a bit too perfectly.

But, to be honest, I could care less about all that. Because the cast of the characters here, and the story of how they came together, was perfect. Yes, there were times when the author's voice came through too loudly in Willow's narrative, but all in all she was a MAGNIFICENT protagonist. Memorable, vulnerable, brilliant, funny, and - in a pretty major accomplishment - MOSTLY believable. Dell Duke was just about perfect, and the relationship between these two characters is brilliantly done. The Nguyens are all fabulous, too.

This is not the best book of the year. But it is definitely near the top, and it is certainly my personal favorite.
Profile Image for Samuel.
Author 2 books28 followers
December 20, 2013
Counting by 7s is the story of Willow Chance, a precocious 12-year-old whose parents are killed in an automobile accident. It details the aftermath of this tragedy, and Willow's attempts to build a new life and a new home with a cast of other people who don't quite fit in.

The book is getting a fair amount of awards buzz, and a lot of reviewers have really positive things to say about it. Having finished it, however, I find myself unpersuaded.

The biggest problem I had is with Willow herself. I didn't believe in her for a second -- she reads like the kind of genius you see on a TV show rather than one you might actually encounter in real life. She effortlessly learns and recalls information about gardening, zoology, epidemiology, dermatology, beekeeping, astrophysics, computer hardware, legal agreements, spatial design, astronomy, network hacking, modernist poetry, and multiple foreign languages (Spanish, Latin, Vietnamese), to the point that even Marilyn Vos Savant might be hard-pressed to keep up. She aces a test that apparently not a single other child in the state of California has gotten perfect, and yet she hasn't so much as skipped a grade. As middle school prodigies go, she's slightly less realistic than Susan and Mary Test, and significantly more problematic than Early Auden, whom I've already complained about at length.

That might work if it were played for laughs, or if it were in some kind of larger-than-life tall tale, but Counting by 7s is ostensibly contemporary fiction with no fantastic elements. Willow's character kept jarring me out of that world with her impossibility.

This is even more true because the facts in the book have moments where they veer away from the truth significantly. Willow has a story she tells (and references repeatedly) about the flock of green-rumped parrots that lived by her house. However, the book is set in Bakersfield, California, and according to the Official California Bird Records, there has never been a recorded sighting of a green-rumped parrot (or parrotlet, which is what it's usually called) in California, much less a flock of them moving into someone's backyard. If she's an expert in zoology at the level at which she is presented -- and, especially since the book shifts constantly between first and third person narration, there's no reason to view Willow as an unreliable narrator -- that seems like the sort of mistake she wouldn't make.

Counting by 7s has a heartwarming plot, and the sentence-level writing is quite good, if presented in a somewhat stilted cadence. But, in the end, I'm not convinced about this one at all.

This review also appeared at abouttomock.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Rachel Reads Ravenously.
1,804 reviews2,158 followers
March 10, 2019
3.5 - 4 stars

A great story about how connections are formed and how strangers become friends and family. I think I would have loved this more if I had been in a different mind frame because some the the heavier emotional parts of this book were too much for me. But I can see why it's loved.

(Sidenote, this is like the 3rd middle grade book I've read starring a young girl as an undiscovered genius and I am wondering why there are so many of these in this genre).

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Profile Image for The Reading Countess.
1,731 reviews56 followers
May 28, 2013
It's hard to garner five stars from me. Four stars? Yes. But five? That's nearly impossible. If Goodreads had seven stars, I would award it just that.

This is the story of Willow, a genius who simply has never fit in-until tragedy strikes and she is forced to find her niche in a world that simply doesn't seem to have space for someone like her. Or does it?

Counting By 7s is about what truly makes a family, about acceptance and the human spirit to overcome and adapt. It's about being open and confronting your fears. In the end, it's about life.

I loved how perfectly Holly Goldberg Sloan tucked the voice of Willow so slyly into the text. I could hear her whisper reading the book in my ear.
This one is a page-turner, and will surely be a winner as a read aloud.

Absolutely stunning. Counting By 7's is a must read for any upper elementary, middle school or even high school teacher/parent of that age group. Run, don't walk, to your nearest bookstore when it comes out. You won't be sorry.
Profile Image for Parastoo.
155 reviews329 followers
November 27, 2021
چند روز پیش که داشتم با مهسا حرف میزدم گفتم بهش که اصلا نمی‌تونم با داستان این کتاب ارتباط بگیرم و دلم میخواد نصفه ولش کنم.

امروز این کتاب تموم شد و میتونم بگم تجربه‌ی عجیبی واسم بود.
چون شروع داستانش بسیار لذت‌بخش بود، خیلی شاد ومفرح. و من داشتم لذت میبردم که یک اتفاق اساسی افتاد.
خیلی برام عجیب بود که نمیتونستم داستان‌های بعد از اون اتفاق رو تحمل کنم، خیلی سریع پیش میرفتم یا اصلا دست و دلم به خوندنش نمی‌رفت و می‌تونم بگم ازش فراری شده بود. چون دلم میخواست زودتر تموم بشه.حس می‌کردم این اتفاق خیلی ساده‌س و نویسنده چرا انقدر درباره ش حرف زده؟!

رفته رفته نظرم تغییر کرد، حس وابستگی به بیدی پیدا کردم و توی بعضی از قسمت‌ها اشک توی چشم جمع می‌شد و دلم میخواست بیدی رو بغل کنم بهش بگم من پیشتم.
واقعیتش اینکه من بیدی رو قضاوت می‌کردم! چون داشتم داستان رو از دیدگاه یه فرد 24 ساله میخوندن نه یه فرد 12 ساله.
دختر 12ساله‌ی کوچکی که فقط نمی‌خواست راهش رو گم کنه و دنبال مسیر درست می‌گشت...

و در آخر؛
مرسی رعنا❤
Profile Image for Mariah Roze.
1,015 reviews920 followers
November 6, 2017
This book has been on my To-Read forever and I was so excited to finally get to it. However, this book was definitely a disappointment. There was nothing gripping about it that made me want to keep reading... There was nothing interesting about her advanced understanding and obsession with learning because when her parents died (that is not a spoiler... it happens right away) her obsession with learning and growing stopped. The author focused so much on other stuff that it took away from learning about the main character.

"Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life...until now. Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read."
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
909 reviews13.8k followers
May 10, 2015
3.5 stars

I'm a bit disappointed in this. It started out with a flashback that didn't end for about 50 pages, and I loved everything then. The main character is so smart and quirky and such a role model. But then it snaps back to reality when she's trying to recover from a family tragedy and I found that the book got really boring. Her bright and intelligent personality went away, and I couldn't make sense of a lot that happened with the plot. I didn't understand a lot of the character interactions, why certain characters were being highlighted and followed. Regardless I love the character development and now I feel really inspired to learn a new language lol
Profile Image for Gypsy.
397 reviews503 followers
July 27, 2019

هورهورهور سه ماه گذشته و من تازه اومدم ریویو بنویسم. :گریه:

نیمۀ اول داستانو خیلی دوست داشتم. اصلاً اوایلش رو خیلی دوست داشتم. نه اینکه بقیه‌شو دوست نداشتم، ولی یه مشکلی داشتم با هر دو زاویۀ دیدها. وقتی اول شخص می‌شد خیلی حرف می‌زد بنظرم، یه جاهایی خودمحورانه هم می‌شد. سوم شخص هم که می‌شد یه وقتایی خیلی می‌خواست بگه وای چقد گونا داشت و اذیت می‌شه و سینماتیک می‌شد. بااین‌حال من توی مسافرت خوندمش و وقتی تمومش کردم که روی ابرها بودم بین مشهد و تهران. برا همین فراموشم نمی‌شه حسی که بعد از پایان این کتاب داشتم. توأمان از چیزی که فکر می‌کردم بهتر نبود اما انتظارمو برآورده کرد.

ریویوهای خوبی هم خوندم و نیازی نمی‌بینم چیزی بگم. طرح جلدش خیلی خوبه. از ترجمه هم راضی بودم. با شخصیتی بسیار متفاوت با خودم همذات‌پنداری کردم و براش غصه خوردم، که این نشون می‌ده دمت گرم خانم گلدبرگ اسلون. نمرۀ واقعی سه و نیم. برای بچه‌ها چار.
Profile Image for Kristine.
651 reviews114 followers
November 12, 2013
4.5 stars Best of the Year So Far - Review to Come

This book is far from perfect, but the strongest book I've read so far this year. Willow is a 12-year-old prodigy who's been adopted by parents with very little other family. Right at the start, her parents die in a car accident.

Let me get this out of the way first: I loathe dead parent/grandparent books. It's just such an exhausted literary trope for me that it grates against my consciousness in all imaginable ways. So let me get my beef out now, when Willow is in the library and she says
I have trouble concentrating, but I still attempt to search for reading material involving losing a parent. I find no literature or empirical data directed to a middle schooler. If I were a publisher, I would immediately initiate a series of books for kids who have to cope with the death of their mother or father.


There must be a commonality in the experience of losing a parent that makes it worthwhile to share the particulars of the occurrence. Especially for the young. More literary output is needed from professionals in this area. Please pass along this request to the appropriate people in the world of publishing.

I mean, is she serious? I know that Willow is a girl that usually reads more nonfiction, but a lackage of dead parents in middle grade literature?? WHAT ALTERNATE UNIVERSE DO YOU EXIST IN, WILLOW???? Because I thought this was realistic fiction, and not a fantasy. Having a dead parent(s) is a common mechanism in children's literature to easily create independence, adventure, conflict and/or sympathy, etc. It is the exception, and not the rule, in children's literature to have present parents. For a book to start on this path - whoah, boy - you are already in the negative stars for me, and you better be putting something together to really wow me to get me to like this book. It's possible, but rare. Like Walk Two Moons rare.


AND, I'll give credit where credit is due, I believe you overcame it for me. The book starts with Willow being accused of cheating (remember the prodigy thing? apparently this school hasn't figured that part out yet, which is . . . um, an inconsistency) and sent to Dell Duke, the school counselor, who discovers her genius. Then Willow is orphaned and has no able family to take her. They weren't part of a church or social group and mostly just hung out themselves. So when the two teens (Mai and her brother) who are there to witness the police break the news to her take pity and act like family friends to take her home that night instead of off to a shelter - this turns into a bumbling group of half-broken people trying to make the best of an awful situation in Bakersfield, CA.

The strength of the book is the voice, it's so strong and consistent. And yet I'm torn, much of her dialog (internal and external) sounds like an adult, but on the other hand, so do prodigies. Is it the author's voice or is it a well written prodigy? Either way, I'll accept it and enjoy it. She has some real gems, like:
Dell Duke is not a bad person. He is just bad at being a person.

The burden of ownership means everything has a price.

Plants (like people) thrive when there is balance.

I'll be ready. I'm not sure for what exactly. But maybe that's what being ready really means.

He said that the cat was a therapy dog. I appreciate his support, but I sincerely hope that he's not running the show.

A second can feel like forever if what follows is heartbreak.
Such good stuff, right?

Other than the voice and writing, I have to admit my personal bias to well written exploration of the foster care system. As a former foster parent I'm usually very picky about how these children and the system are portrayed. This book has the caring, overworked case worker; the preference for young adorable children and a small glimpse of a group foster home, which, was a little glossy to me (seeing as the one my teenage foster daughter came out of was a run down home in a run down part of town that had some of the counselors on site smoking as much weed with the kids than they could find at school).

Willow's fascination with plants and the parallel story of regrowing/planting temporary plants looking for places to put down deep roots is fitting and not too in your face (I'm thinking of other popular overt stories as in Navigating Early and Okay for Now, knock me in the head parallels). I like how it showed a realistic depression, a shutting down, a not caring for much - and how the baby steps started to turn it around. I liked the unlikable Dell Duke and how this group of Misfits, Oddballs, Lone Wolves, Weirdos, Geniuses, Dictators, and Mutants all came together to make each other better together than they were separately. The ending wasn't perfect (well it was kind of a hot mess, and a little too much happily ever after for my taste, but it's passable. Personally for me, it's at the top of my list to vote on the Mock Newbery this year (so far). Which is something, right?

One last note, this book was provided by www.netgalley.com and the publisher in exchange for an honest review - and really, I know it's an uncorrected proof, but the second half of the book constantly skipped groups of pages and I suspect even chapters at a time on my kindle. This may be why the second half of the story lacked for me, because some of it was missing?
Profile Image for Snotchocheez.
595 reviews322 followers
January 6, 2014
The entire time I read this, there was an arhythmic thumping in the back of my head. It was (I think) an un-cadent tattoo to remind me it seems like I've read variations on this book's theme a dozen or more times. (It doesn't help that the book I've just started reading after this one (The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt) has nearly the same exact plot points as this one, just written for a significantly more mature audience),

An overfamiliar theme (a child's grief after losing his or her parents) is not the reason why I rated Counting By 7's so low, though. There was just too much ridiculously implausible crap going on (not to mention the grieving child at the heart of this book, Willow Chance, a middle-school "genius", curiously has the same "voice" as every other character in this book, no thanks to the author's inane decision to switch from Willow's first person narration to third person omniscient at whim with little continuity or appropiate segue: everyone in the book sounds like Willow, who of course, sounds like author Holly Goldberg Sloan, whether it be her newly acquired Vietnamese friends Mai and Quang-ha Nguyen, their mom Pattie (Dung), or her jaw-droppingly inept school counselor Dell Duke: they all pretty much sound alike...only Willow has the opportunity to drop fifty-cent words like "onomatopoetic" (sp) and knows how to control soil pH levels and counts by 7s (cause she's a "genius", you know) )

When I read a YA/teen/middle grade (i.e. not "adult") novel, it's always a bad sign when I have to stop repeatedly (usually after a section that doesn't exactly ring true, or is fraught with grammatical/stylistic problems) and ask myself "Well, would I have liked this when I was a kid?". It's much worse, though, when the answer back to myself is a resounding "No".
Profile Image for Sabreen.
117 reviews51 followers
April 9, 2015

I am sick of books that expect the protagonists ~speshulness~ to account for an interesting story. Willow Chance (what kind of pretentious name is that, by the way?) is an "oddity." The author goes out of her way to give her idiosyncracies that don't really make any sense and point out how unique she is.

And then her parents die. She says something along the lines of "I'm a statistical anomaly, only 0.0001% of adopted children have their adopted parents die as well?" Like, am I supposed to be impressed?? Good for you, Willow? Seriously everything about her character is chosen to point out that she's oh-so-different.

So this kid moves in with these people she hardly knows and they all get close and everyone lives happily ever after.


See, in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the protagonist being a prodigy wasn't the sole focus of the book. There was PLOT. Substance. An exciting mystery or two.

This was just incredibly predictable and I cannot believe I wasted 3 hours of my life on this.

And what's more, the characters were actually likable. They had strong voices and points of view...they were real.

If you like faux-profound, poorly developed antics and characters with *quirks*, maybe you'll like this book. It just wasn't for me.
Profile Image for Lara (Bookish_turtle).
232 reviews190 followers
April 18, 2018
Okay, I've read this book so many times and love it so much that I figure I should write a review!

I really just love this book so much, so if you insult it, we can't be friends. Not really. If you don't like this book, then I won't judge you (or at least I'll pretend not to) ... But seriously. I am in love with this book.

It is a YA realistic fiction, bordering on middle grade, but to make myself feel better I'm calling it YA.

The main character is unique! This is such a generic statement made about nearly every book I or any other reviewer has ever liked. But Willow is just so awesome. I don't even know where to begin describing her. I'm not even going to try...

That was a lie. I am. Not well maybe, but I am going to try.

She's super smart, and a bit of a lone wolf, at least at the start of the book. She is trying to find her place in the world, and figure out the complex social interactions of high school. The struggle is real, am I right?

Anyway, reading from her perspective she is so funny, perceptive and honest, and I love every page. She is brilliant and underappreciated in her world, but I loved reading about her! Also, she's super sensitive and such a precious cinnamon roll who must be protected at all costs!

The side characters are perfection, you'll have to read it and see for yourself!!! Also: DIVERSITY!!!

This book also deals with the theme of loss, and does so in a profound way through the entire book.

I feel like this review is a train wreck. I just love this book so much, it is really special to me, and I really hope that somebody else will love it as much as I do!

If it's been on your TBR for a while (or even if it hasn't) please just pick it up. This book is so incredible!
Profile Image for Sean-Wyn.
62 reviews23 followers
December 3, 2019
A decent book about moving on from a life-altering tragedy. But the plot's a bit generic and the author's attempts to make Willow look smart are forced sometimes.
Profile Image for Danny Phanton.
254 reviews84 followers
February 16, 2019
Reseña completa en mi blog: La cueva de Danny.

Bueno, bueno, esta es la segunda vez que me leo este libro y con un gran pesar debo decir que no lo disfrute tanto como lo hice la primera, me costo leerlo y que me enganchara como aquella vez. Supongo que no estaba en el mood para leerlo, no sé, pero definitivamente no fue lo mismo.

Le dejare la calificación que le di aquella vez porque tiene un lugar en mi corazón el libro.
Primera opinióm

¡Me encantó! La verdad es que no esperaba nada de este libro y no sabia nada de el, y me sorprendió para bien, para mi, de los mejores de este año.
Profile Image for Bee.
430 reviews860 followers
June 13, 2016
I'm not crying YOU'RE crying. Oh goodness. This book was so ridiculously amazing. The cover doesn't really do it justice in my opinion but it's such a beautiful story about how a girl changes five people's lives and I LOVED it. It also had some pretty strong Matilda vibes (she even loves the library!) so if you're looking for the next Matilda, read Counting by 7s!
Profile Image for Andrea Olson.
130 reviews6 followers
December 29, 2014
You can be smart and not be a jerk. The narrator, Willow Chance, talks more like C-3P0 than a human and manages to be even more annoying.
The creepy school counselor with no backbone just lets some Vietnamese family take over his apartment. Oh, and don't forget (SPOILERS)
Pattie is filthy rich, but instead, she has her children sleep in a garage and starve. Nothing irks me more than unneeded suffering, which is all Pattie inflicts with this stupid choice.
And then J-man (whatever the taxi dude's name was) wins the lottery by spending his life savings on text books for school, which likely are USELESS.
So the story is a touching retelling of the old rags to riches fairy tale that conveniently neglects how freaking hard it is in real life to accomplish such things.
I half expected Willow to trip over a giant bag of money from a drug deal gone south or find some diamonds in the walls of the library.
Too much deus ex machina for me.
Hard pass.
Profile Image for C. L..
340 reviews15 followers
March 9, 2017
Okay, let me see if I've got this right:

-being "gifted" means being flawless
-the sole Hispanic character is a taxi driver who thinks the main character is a shaman mystic angel
-the Vietnamese characters live in a garage behind their nail salon, despite being secretly rich
-public schools are evil
-foster care is evil
-libraries are mostly used by homeless people
-writing in short sentences that each start a new paragraph is super-deep

Hey, look! Seven!

Skip this.
Profile Image for Philip.
966 reviews258 followers
February 8, 2014
SNOW DAY!!! WOO HOO! I woke up and started reading this as I ate my breakfast. I had coffee and coffee cake... again. Then I played with the kids some. Then I told them, back off... I was reading. Then we built a snow fort. Then I read. Dinner. Read. Put the kids to bed. Read. My wife said, "Philip... there's no way we're having another snow day tomorrow. You should really turn off the light."

I had 20 pages left. 20 pages... It feels SOOOOooooo good to be so into a book that the only thing you want to do is read. And it's a great feeling to finish a book in a day. But, it's always a better idea to listen to your wife.

So, I went to school on Thursday - without having finished the book. I hyped it up to my kids, and finished it that afternoon when I got home.

Of course, I didn't have to, because today... Friday... is a... SNOW DAY!!! WOO HOO!!!!! 10th one of the year!!! (Nothing like going to school in July. Or driving to the school when you have a delay, only to get there and find out it's cancelled and come home to facebook posts telling you teachers are lazy.*)

*Ahem* Sorry... Back to the book... It's fantastic. Sloan knocked it out of the park.

I put it in the ubiquitous and ambiguous "Young Adult" category, but some may argue it's a little younger than young adult.


But I liked it more than a lot of the YA stuff out there. The books I like most resolve, but necessarily tidily so... And they are definitely not (overly) formulaic.

I was just discussing The Fault in Our Stars with a colleague, who said - that's the point, right? We have this idea of what our destiny should be, but it doesn't ever turn out that way.

That's why I totally disagree with J.K. Rowling's newest reveal that says Harry should have ended up with Hermione. And, I'm not the only one who thinks that, either.

Sure, the font size was larger, and my (outstanding) Public Library has it shelved in the Juvenile section... but mark my words: this is as YA as it gets.

I'm not going to blurb about what this books about. You can get that in 5 seconds by scrolling to the top of your screen (assuming you're reading this on goodreads) and looking at the description of the book. ...Also, it's late.

I'm just going to tell you that it's good, and that I'm recommending it to you. And that, if you read it now - in 2014 - you'll be ahead of the game. Because everybody will be talking about this book soon, if they aren't already.

*Ok... this didn't happen to me this year. At least, not the part about going into the school on a delay and having it cancelled. But it has happened to me several times in the past. And it's very frustrating. ...The facebook posts are there. And annoying.
Profile Image for Rana Heshmati.
503 reviews755 followers
November 7, 2019
فوق‌العاده بود. و اینقدر باهاش گریه کردم که قابل ذکر نیست. :)) جیبام پر دستمال شدن. 🤦🏻‍♀️ و واقعیت اینه که داستان شاید اونقدر گریه‌دار نباشه. ولی یک محبتی هست... یک حالت اینطوری‌ای که انگار یک نیروی بزرگ‌تری هست و آدم‌ها رو تنها نمی‌ذاره و این‌ها، که آدم دلش می‌خواد باور کنه. که دلش گرم می‌شه. گریه‌ش می‌گیره. از اون حالت‌های پس از فاجعه، که می‌بینی به هرحال دنیا ادامه داره و ما بخش کوچکی از جهان هستیم و هنوز قشنگی‌هایی وجود دارن... و درعین حال این رو خیلی لوس و مثبت‌اندیشانه نگفته بود. شرح ناامیدی هم بود. که بنظرم خیلی ملموسش می‌کرد...
حالا به طور کلی، داستان درمورد دختریه که خیلی باهوشه، عاشق عدد هفت و گل و گیاهه و مادر و پدرش رو همزمان در یک تصادف رانندگی از دست می‌ده و...
ترجمه خیلی جاها می‌رفت روی اعصابم و یک چیزهایی رو سعی کرده بود معادل‌سازی کنه که واقعاً دیوونه‌کننده بود. از اسم شخصیت اصلی گرفته، تا کلمه‌های مصطلحی مثل رزومه، کنترل تلویز��ون، حرکات موزون بجای رقص و عدد اصلی بجای عدد اول و...
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