Monday, June 17, 2013

Diamond Willow

Diamond Willow
  (image from

Helen Frost

 Diamond Willow is a story about a twelve-year-old girl in the Alaskan wilderness. Willow, the main character, is a junior dog musher. One day, she takes a trip to her grandparent's house, but one wrong move changes everything...
I want to clear this first: this book is for much younger people than our average. Oh well, boo hoo.
So, we start this book learning a bit about Willow, our main character. As the description says, she's a junior dog musher ( NOT an easy job, by the way). Not an Iditarod junkie or anything, she just likes to work with the dogs her father owns. The description is pretty vanilla, it's basically what I'd expect for the age. Brown hair, brown eyes, plain in all ways. I think there could have been at least something to make her stand out. Not necessarily, though.
We go on to learn that Willow wants to go on a trip to her grandparents, who are native Alaskan and rather awesome. Just putting that out there. After a bit of convincing, her parents let her go.
Willow picks her dogs, a few of her favorites. Some part of me wondered why she needed four (at least, I think it was four) dogs. It's a long journey, but how heavy can this girl possibly be? A hundred pounds? How much supplies are in that sled? Twenty pounds at most. Never mind, I just think three might be a bit better.
Anyhow, the grandparents just act cool, do stuff, and eventually sen Willow and her team on their way with some smoked salmon. Sounds about right.
From this point on are spoilers. Be warned.
It's snowing pretty hard, but Willow just says "Eff you, weather." ... Well, not in those words, but whatever. When coming around a blind curve, they hit a fallen tree, and Willow's best dog, Roxy, gets hurt. Badly. Her eyes are stabbed by some kind of stick or something (I don't believe the book ever says, which I wish it did). Her eyes are bleeding horribly, and we get a nice, somewhat disgusting description. I liked how well it was described, though. It wasn't too graphic or too simple. Good on ya', Ms. Frost.
Turns out, out of those twenty pounds of supplies I assumed she had, there was no first aid kit. Instead of saying "Psssh, I'm the main character, I'll stay calm.", she shows emotion! Fabulous! She scared, worried, hoping her temporary solution of using her shirt (instead of ripping off a piece of it, which is much harder than writers apparently think) will work for the remaining few miles. With three dogs, a much more logical number.
Her parents react two ways. Her mother is more worried about the giant bruise on Willow's leg. Her father seems more worried about Roxy. Willow is scared he'll hate her for it. I'm sure we all know that feeling, when we made a horrible mistake and become sick with anxiety and guilt. There could have been a bit more showing instead of telling in how she felt, but this is a younger audience it's being targeted at (8+).
Well, Willow heals pretty fast (though she is still a bit sore) and goes back to school, where we meet her best and only friend or the first time. Kaylie (I'm taking a wild stab at the spelling) is the perfect girl, complete with perfect grades and having never missed a day of school. I'm glad she was the friend, not the MC. As we know from my recent complaint average-in-every-way-but-school characters bother me (Willow has average grades to go with her averageness).
Anyhow, life goes on. Then, after a POV switch I'll explain with he formatting, Willow finds a note saying that Roxy is to be euthanized now that he is in pain and is blind. Forever. Prepare for the mini-rant.
So, why did Willow go so insane about the euthanizing? I understand some tears and such, but she wasn't using any kind of reasoning I'd ever heard from a twelve-year-old. I expected "My dog! I love her so much, why oh why?!", which is pretty realistic for us young folks. Instead, we get "How do THEY know it's merciful? They can't ask her! What if she'll die in pain?!" Not what I hoped for. First off, it's mouth piecing, and second, it's a bit too much from a tween.
Okay. Sorry.
Willow devises a scheme to save Roxy. She will bring her to her grandparents house, where hopefully they can take her in with their other dogs (who we never see and are given no description). Kaylie is dragged into this because someone needs to hold Roxy to the sled so she doesn't jump or fall off. Kaylie has an (understandable) panic attack, but agrees reluctantly.
In near white-out conditions, they set off with three dogs, two humans, and one dog who cannot do anything. Now this number is ILlogical, because that's an extra two-fifty odd pounds added on. I will calculate until this works.
They get lost, but find a clearing to sleep in. With the smoked salmon and other foods Willow grabbed at home, they eat and sleep. In the morning, they set off again.
Eventually they are found by Kaylie's not-secret admirer, but only Kaylie goes home. Now that the weight amount is somewhat more logical, Willow continues on to her grandparent's house. Somewhere around that time Willow's frantic parents and less frantic little sister find her. They end up discussing all of this at the grandparents'  house. Willow is neither speaker sternly to or given a punishment, though this scenario justifies both.
Even bigger spoiler alert.
Willow is told about how she had a twin. Named Diamond (which explains the double name). And the place that Willow and Kaylie slept for the night? It was where they scattered Diamond's ashes. Does this freak out Willow? Nope. I'm just saying, but I would have a heart attack if I heard that.
Roxy is saved, end of story that I will tell you (I won't spoil everything).
Okay, the formatting. I feel the need the explain it. Most of it is in diamond poems, but POV will switch occasionally, and it will be in plain text. The narrator is announced. I'd like to mention that an Athabaskan  belief I that when someone dies, their spirit is put into an animal. It might not make sense now, but you'll be glad for it.
I liked the book, it managed to make me cry (in a good way), I'd recommend it.
Had a couple issues with this, had to repost. Sorry.

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