About the book:
Willa is lucky: She has a loving blended family that gets along. Not all families are so fortunate. But when a bloody crime takes place hundreds of miles away, it has an explosive effect on Willa’s peaceful life. The estranged father she hardly remembers has murdered his new wife and children, and is headed east toward Willa and her mother.
Under police protection, Willa discovers that her mother has harbored secrets that are threatening to boil over. Has everything Willa believed about herself been a lie? As Willa sets out to untangle the mysteries of her past, she keeps her own secret—one that has the potential to tear her family apart.
After universally agreeing that “Under the Mesquite” was a heartwarming must-read debut novel, our reactions to “Blood Wounds” were surprisingly across the board — especially considering how many of us are big fans of Pfeffer’s “Last Survivors” series (which you should all read!). Individual responses to the family drama ranged from A to C+, but in the end, both the Young and Adult camps averaged out to a B- . That basically means: Put it on the To Be Read pile, just don’t expect it to be as good as the “Moon” trilogy.
“Young” Reader Average: B-
Lily graded the book a B+:
After reading “Life as We Knew it,” “The Dead and the Gone,” and “This World We Live In,” I was WAY hyped for “Blood Wounds.” I wasn’t quite sure what to expect; after all, the only Susan Beth Pfeffer books I’ve read were the “Moon” series. But the one thing I know Susan Beth Pfeffer for is intensity.
The premise of this book really appealed to me. Very often on the news, stories like Budge’s (the crazed killer dad) pop up. Things like, “Man Kills Family of Four” and “Mother Purposely Abandons Children in a Basement” are all over the media. So I was intrigued: what happens after the police track these people down? What happens to these communities? The other family members? Why do these people commit those awful crimes?
So seeing the story from another’s point of view struck me as potentially very interesting. The plot was phenomenal. I found it interesting to show what happens to a family after such a tragedy strikes. The character of Willa intrigued me. However, I would have liked to know more about Willa’s mother and her relationship with her father.
T graded the book a C+:
I will admit I did not like this book as much as last month’s pick. It seemed like the big wow factor of the book happened in the first couple of chapters and then the story went kind of slow. Once I focused and continued reading I did enjoy the book. It was very intense and sad.
It was a normal day when Willa gets home from school and finds that the answering machine for her home phone has three voice mails for her mom from her mother’s best friend, which seem strange with the sound of her friend’s voice panicky. This is when Willa finds out that her real father which her mother left when she was little remarried and had three kids. The worst part was that her father had murdered his wife and two of his daughters, and was on his way to find Willa with his other little one. Therefore Willa and her mother have to go into hiding until her father is found.
Willa and her mother stay at a hotel until her father shows up at their house and a cop is forced to shoot him. Willa’s father ends up dying and the police find Willa’s little sister murdered in his car.
Willa feels bad that she never knew her sisters and convinces her mother to let her go stay with her mother’s friend so she can go to the three little girls’ funeral. This is where the story really takes off. You are going to have to read the book to find out what all happens…
“Adult” Reader Average: B-
Diana graded the book an A:
After reading “Life as We Knew It” and the two follow-up books, I became a fan of Susan Beth Pfeffer’s writing. With her latest novel, “Blood Wounds,” she does not disappoint. In this novel, the protagonist, Willa, feels that her life is wonderful. She is in a blended family that her mother and step-father have worked very hard to make sure is “well-blended”. Willa gets along and actually loves her step-sisters. They appear to be the perfect family.
Things, however, are quickly turned upside down in their lives when Willa’s father murders his wife and children and is now thought to be after her and her mother. As her family deals with this crisis, many things come to the surface about Willa, her mother, her step-father, and her step-sisters.
Pfeffer exceptionally deals with typical family issues such as blended families, divorce, friendship, and mother-daughter relationships. Deeper issues such as cutting and why teens might choose to cut themselves are also dealt with. “Blood Wounds” is also a coming of age novel, as Willa travels to her home town to discover her roots and ultimately discovers who she really is.
With “Blood Wounds,” Pfeffer has presented us a suspenseful novel that will appeal to all YA readers.
Jenn graded the book a C+:
When I read the synopsis for “Blood Wounds” by Susan Beth Pfeffer, I was intrigued by the idea: a teenaged girl, Willa, faces a grim reality when her father murders his new wife and children. In the aftermath, Willa worries about the affect on her family, but she holds many of these concerns inside.
Willa is used to holding back her emotions. In the first chapter, Willa’s stepfather Jack describes their blended family as a “happy family.” But over the course of the story, layer after layer is peeled back and we see that they are anything but. As much as they (Willa, her mother, stepfather, and stepsisters) love each other, their poor communication leaves everyone feeling a bit slighted. This is true of many families, and I thought it was an authentic portrayal.
However, I couldn’t get past the sameness of the dialogue. I didn’t think the characters had distinct voices, and the dialogue was choppy and lacked emotion. I think Pfeffer went a bit too far in trying to keep the story free of melodrama. It was hard for me to feel an emotional connection to these characters. I also thought the ending seemed just a little too tidy. It was unrealistic for everything to work out so perfectly for everyone.
Overall, I think the story deals with an interesting topic. I liked Willa and hoped things would get better for her. I just didn’t really think how Pfeffer got her there was very realistic.
Cara (who adored Pfeffer’s “Last Survivors” trilogy) graded the book a C+:
I went into this book with quite high expectations, and while I had no trouble zipping through it, I never really identified with any of the characters as I did so strongly with the characters in her other books. The characters in this book all felt very stereotypical and two-dimensional: the doting mother with her hidden small town past; the too-perfect stepfather with the evil ex-wife; the stepsisters who get everything while Willa lives on hand-me-downs.
Additionally, there were significant areas of the story that didn’t ring true for me. I simply can not believe that any mother, let alone Willa’s overprotective one, would allow her child to travel on her own following such an unbelievably traumatic event. Moreover, the personal issue that Willa struggles with felt like a forced connection to her father, one that was too quickly and easily resolved in the end. Pfeffer can certainly string words together, but this book fell flat for me.
Sandie graded the book a B:
It was difficult to tamp down my expectations for this novel, given how much I enjoyed the “Last Survivors” books. Pfeffer particularly impressed me with that series, because she mastered not only age and gender but ethnicity and religion — all without losing the teen angst that was necessary to make the apocalyptic books believable. In fact, I was shocked when I discovered Pfeffer is one of the “older” popular authors in YA, because she’s so, so convincing at describing the pain and upheaval of adolescence.
In “Blood Wounds,” Pfeffer once again navigates the world of pain — both that of the heart (Willa is the relatively deprived step-sister in a seemingly happy blended family) and that of the body (Willa’s secretly a cutter, and her biological father commits an atrocity so horrible and bloody I can’t bring myself to describe it). And the title, of course, describes both the literal and the figurative ways Willa’s blood (aka family) causes her pain.
As much as I was drawn into the story of Willa’s troubles, I found certain aspects of the story lacking. I wanted to know more about her mother’s decision to transform into an opinion-less “perfect wife” for the sake of a loving husband. I wanted to grow more attached to Willa’s half-brother, step-sisters, even Willa herself. I didn’t understand her urgent need to return to her mother’s hometown, much less her mother’s decision not to accompany her. In the end, the character I found most believable was that of the secondary adults, like Willa’s mother’s best friend and the retired newspaper couple who treated Willa like a granddaughter.
I was extraordinarily relieved at the reversal of fortune Willa enjoyed at the end of the book, but I also found myself wishing Pfeffer had developed most of the emotional connections in the book before the storybook ending.