This perfectly delightful book by Holly Goldberg Sloan is exactly that. Original, heartwarming, poignant; think of all the descriptives for a YA book that you can, and they all apply. But honestly apply. Not as cliches. This book will have you laughing and crying at the same time.
You will love Counting By 7s for the following 7 reasons:
1. Willow. Adopted as a baby, and orphaned at age 12, Willow is a genius, loves gardening, has an encyclopaedic understanding of flora, and is obsessed with medical knowledge. She speaks Vietnamese and Spanish, among others. She has no friends. Until she meets Mai.
2. Mai is the 14 year old daughter of a Vietnamese immigrant. She is tough, determined, deliberate, truly confident, and sees beyond Willow’s quirks to the real girl who needs a friend. Her heart is very kind and open. Mai looks out for her brother Quang-ha.
3. Quang-ha is a year older than Mai, and is a reclusive artistic genius. He is always in trouble in school, is bored, and hates living in the converted garage behind the nail salon. He resents Willow’s presence, but she becomes another little sister without him realizing. She helps him with his homework, and he discovers his own drive to succeed.
4. Pattie is Mai’s and Quang-ha’s mother. She runs the Happy Polish Nails Salon. She is kind and practical. Unable to understand inactivity, she soon has Willow helping out at the salon and takes over control of her life while Children’s Services tries to find a place for her. She understands Willow’s pain, and does her best to give the girl a stable place in which to accept her loss.
5. Dell is the loser school counsellor who has coasted through life doing the bare minimum, and barely getting away with it. Except that he isn’t a loser. He meets Willow and Mai and Quang-ha and begins to find more in himself. Dell wants to be a better person, for Willow and for the Nguyens, but he needs their help to accomplish the goal.
6. Jairo is one of those special friendships that happen by pure chance. You order a cab one day, instead of walking, and *poof*, kindred spirit. Jairo is a cab driver with dreams of being a medical technician. Willow encourages him, and in turn, he watches out for the strange little girl who checks his papers before driving with him, gives medical advice, offers him so much inspiration, and changes his life.
7. Friendship, love, loss, selflessness, kindness, angels, inspiration, sharing, fear, loneliness, tears, giggles, oddballs, mutants, miracles, Cheddar, and family.
Everyone can read this book. You will need a handful of tissues by the end, even as you stand and cheer.
Counting By 7s is published by Dial Books.