Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books - Oct. 2011
Pfeffer, Susan Beth Blood Wounds.
Harcourt, 2011 256p ISBN 978-0-547-49638-2 16.99
Reviewed from galleys
R r. 8-12
"We’re a happy family,” states Willa’s stepfather, Jack, and Willa agrees. Or she thinks she does at the time, but soon her blended family is thrown into chaos: Budge, the father that sixteen-year-old Willa barely remembers, goes on a murderous rampage, killing Willa’s never-met half-sisters and finally being shot dead himself by the police. Willa horrifies her family by traveling back to small-town Texas for the memorial and to learn about the relatives she never knew, and in the process she finds herself questioning the price of her seeming family happiness.
Pfeffer’s had some interesting science-fiction explorations lately (Life As We Knew It, BCCB 12/06),but this is a return to her classic form, with headline-worthy melodrama a vehicle for exploring family dynamics widespread even in more ordinary households. Willa’s dawning understanding that she’s been “Quiet-Never-Make-A-Fuss Willa,” going along with her mother’s acceptance of the fierce inequities of her household in order to keep the family together, unfolds subtly but effectively.
Pfeffer avoids reductivity, however, making it clear that Willa’s mother and stepsisters have paid their own price for the family bargain, with unfairness being spread around so thoroughly the situation almost comes back around to being fair. There’s also the looming tacit reminder, in Budge’s truly horrific crime, that there are worse things than having fewer advantages than one’s stepsisters.
The sheer drama of the plot will draw readers, and they’ll stay for an insightful exploration of the way families go both right and wrong. DS