Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer. To be published by Harcourt Children’s Books in September, 2011. Read in August, 2011. ARC provided by publisher at ALA Annual.
Description from GoodReads:
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.
I was excited to read Blood Wounds as I am such a fan of Pfeffer’s “Moon” books. I found the set-up of Blood Wounds unique: dealing with a murder that impacts a character’s life even though said character does not know the victims. There is a lot going on in this book, though, and I don’t think that is good. Willa’s unknown past, fear of the murderous father, death, long-lost family, blended family balance issues, financial strain, divorce, cutting…all brought up and resolved in 248 large print, wide-spaced pages. (In the ARC, of course; the published version could change.) All the different plot points come fast as a rolling boil, yet never blend together to form a solid story. And like a rolling boil, the heat is quickly turned off and things are resolved in a way that feels too sudden.
Because there are so many issues, the characters suffer and are rendered weak with little dimension. For example, I never was able to nail down the individuality of Willa’s two step sisters. When Willa decides she must visit her birthplace – the town where her father committed the murders – I had a very hard time believing that a mother would let her teenage daughter travel to the site of the crime so soon after their lives were at risk. It was all too convenient.
I think some readers will enjoy the book, especially because it is fast-paced and a quick read. I can see the possibility of using it to engage reluctant readers because there is so much going on, and will buy it for my school library. I think readers who appreciate a book with depth and three-dimensional characters will be left unsatisfied.
I see on Susan Beth Pfeffer’s blog that she is contemplating a 4th Moon book, and I do look forward to returning to that world.