Review of “Blood Wounds” by Susan Beth Pfeffer

This is a book about a teenager who cuts herself. To be honest, if I had known that was what this book was about, I would not have read it. I prefer to take an ostrich-like approach to such matters.

Willa Coffey seems to be leading a nice, normal life, but it isn’t long until you come to understand the circumstances that lead to her self-mutilation. She is part of a blended stepfamily that regularly congratulates itself on how happy they all are. But they are only happy on the surface, and the pressure to maintain that Potemkin façade just adds stress to each of their lives. Or, at least, to all of them except Willa’s stepdad, Jack, who is a nice guy but unwittingly makes everything worse by his refusal to acknowledge reality.

Willa’s stepsisters, Brooke and Alyssa, have a wealthy mom who buys them everything. Neither Willa’s mom Terri nor stepfather Jack can afford to do the same for Willa, so Willa is often left on the sidelines. Worse still, Terri and Willa are regularly recruited to accompany Brooke and Alyssa to their various lessons, competitions, and other activities, while listening supportively to their stories of international travels. Still, all simmers below ground until Terri’s ex-husband “Budge” murders his current wife and three little girls back in Texas, and is rumored to be heading to Pennsylvania to go after Terri and Willa.

Discussion: There are two rather awful story lines in this book. On the one hand, you have Willa dealing with stress in her life by cutting herself, because, inter alia, she fears if she vocalizes her discontent, Jack may not want her anymore. On the other, you have the gruesome mass murder of a woman and little children by a crazed man who is unfortunately Willa’s direct blood relation. How is Willa supposed to cope with all this?

Evaluation: This book broaches important topics that are well-treated, but it is not for the faint of heart. Pfeffer is to be commended for tackling these issues, and for giving us the perspective of a teenager who is directly involved. But truthfully, if I read this review on another blog, I would comment something like, “Sounds important, but I’m glad you read it so I didn’t have to!”

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Harcourt Children’s Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 2011

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21 Responses to Review of “Blood Wounds” by Susan Beth Pfeffer

  1. Nymeth says:

    It definitely doesn’t sound like the most pleasant of reading experiences, but you’ve got me curious anyway.

  2. Jenny says:

    Sometimes I look at YA books as ones that I could recommend to my teen clients to help them relate but I’m not sure with this one. Sounds really intense! I haven’t read anything yet about this topic.

  3. Glad you read it so I didn’t have to! Just kidding. This does sound startlingly too intense for me.

  4. Barbara says:

    Has it occurred to you that you’ve been reading some very odd books lately? I’m with iwriteinbooks on this, glad you read it so I don’t have to. Ick!

  5. zibilee says:

    I also have a hard time with this subject, and feel that I won’t ever really understand the reason that people cut. It makes me uncomfortable to realize that it’s such a big problem, and for some reason, I can’t understand why it happens. It’s weird because 15 or 20 years ago, this wasn’t as huge of a problem as it is now. Either that or people hid it better. Which makes me wonder, why is it so prevalent now? I don’t think I could read this book because of it’s subject matter, but I was really interested in reading your take on it. Very candid and thoughtful review.

  6. Kailana says:

    I have actually being seeing this subject matter appear rather regularly. I have read a couple books where a character has done so. I think this is the new thing that authors want to bring attention to.

  7. This sounds like a book that — well, I won’t say “that I would enjoy reading” — but a book I would want to read. I am drawn to novels about troubled teens. I’ll look for this one.

  8. Trisha says:

    I’ve only ever read one book on cutting, and while I appreciate the importance of such books, I, like you, prefer not to read them.

  9. pagesofjulia says:

    I think your final comment says it all.

  10. Yes, I think my response is pretty much “glad you read it so I don’t have to!” Sounds intense.

  11. Margot says:

    Yes, I will keep my head in the sand on this subject. I hate to think of people doing this to themselves. It also makes me get very angry at a culture that drives them to it.

  12. sandynawrot says:

    On one hand, I figure I should probably read about these issues having teenagers. (One girl in my daughter’s class has been cutting for years.) But ugh. Dark stuff. I did enjoy her moon apocalypse series, so I know she does write compulsive prose.

  13. BermudaOnion says:

    Oh my gosh, talk about issues! Poor Willa. I’ll have to think about this one.

  14. celawerd says:

    It sounds like an interesting.

  15. stacybuckeye says:

    “Sounds important, but I’m glad you read it so I didn’t have to!”

  16. softdrink says:

    Sounds important, but I’m glad you read it so I didn’t have to!

    Also, thanks for writing my comment out for me, too.

  17. Julie P. says:

    I think your last sentence said it all….

  18. Alyce says:

    I thought it was a compelling and quick read. (I read it in a day at the Hilo airport – where they have cushy sofas to wait in BTW…) I thought that the issue of cutting wasn’t dealt with as fully as it could have been, and that that aspect of the story was tied up too neatly at the end.

  19. Jenners says:

    Sounds important, but I’m glad you read it so I don’t have to. (Was I the first to leave this comment? I’m lazy and never read anyone else’s comments or I’d never get my blog visits done.)

  20. Staci says:

    I like this author and I’m always looking to add these types of books to my shelves…I will read this one for sure. Especially because of the age group that I work with.

  21. Meg says:

    Sounds important, but I’m glad you read it so I didn’t have to!

    Haha — but yes, in all seriousness, I loved Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It and its sequel, but don’t think I could stomach this one. Sounds way too intense for my delicate sensibilities.

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