The novel “Counting by 7s” by Holly Goldberg Sloan is about a seemingly odd girl, Willow Chance, who struggles to fit in to a new school due to her giftedness and difference in interests. She starts meeting with a school counselor named Dell Duke who tries to put her in a box but is mystified by her, and she forms a gradual friendship with Mai, the sister of one of Dell’s other counselees (Quang-ha). Soon after, Willow goes home to find that both of her parents- her anchors in a new environment- have been killed in a car accident, changing everything and throwing her into an uncertain world. This book was one of my favorites during middle school because of its plain language and round characters. The bossiness of Mai, Quang-ha, and their mom, and the compelling, sometimes hilarious, situations that resulted in their actions led me to admire and connect with them and how they took charge of their world. I especially liked how the author used Willow to pose an interesting discussion of giftedness and show how it is often misunderstood or seen as an inconvenience. I believe this is a real situation that many gifted kids face- and a discussion that needs to happen. One aspect that may be frustrating to a reader is how at the start, Willow doesn’t speak up for herself and lets others put her in a box. However, she learns to assert herself more and stand up for what she wants and needs with the encouragement of her new family. Overall, I would give this book a 4/5 stars. Elena of the Yorba Linda Teen Book Bloggers

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