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Blood Wounds

Blood Wounds

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Blood Wounds

3.5/5 (16 évaluations)
197 pages
2 heures
Sep 13, 2011


Blood can both wound and heal . . .

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? But as Willa sets out to untangle the mysteries of her past, she also keeps her own secret—one that has the potential to tear apart all she holds dear.

Sep 13, 2011

À propos de l'auteur

Susan Beth Pfeffer wrote her first novel, Just Morgan, during her last semester at New York University. Since then, she has written over seventy novels for children and young adults, including Kid Power, Fantasy Summer, Starring Peter and Leigh, and The Friendship Pact, as well as the series Sebastian Sisters and Make Me a Star. Pfeffer’s books have won ten statewide young reader awards and the Buxtehude Bulle Award.

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Blood Wounds - Susan Beth Pfeffer


part one

[happy families]


I THINK EVEN IF NOTHING had happened the next day, even if my life had stayed just as it was that night at supper, I’d still remember what Jack said. He has that way of startling me by saying something totally unexpected but then, when I think about it, something that makes perfect sense, something I should have known all along.

We were all at the supper table. It was Wednesday night, and Wednesday nights we eat together. Jack has Tuesdays and Wednesdays off, but we could never manage two nights in a row. Mom’s committed to completing her bachelor’s degree, so she takes a couple of classes during the day and one or two at night. Brooke always has something: lacrosse, dressage, violin, not to mention her dozens of friends. Alyssa has tennis plus the swimming and yoga she uses for cross-training. And I keep busy enough too, with choir and the occasional school play.

But Wednesday nights we eat together. Jack does the shopping and the cooking, and whoever is around pitches in to help. This time Alyssa made the salad and Brooke set the table. I had a choir rehearsal and got home only a few minutes before suppertime.

I wouldn’t remember any of that if everything hadn’t changed the next day. But I’m sure I would remember what Jack said.

Mom was telling us about her nineteenth-century literature class. Mom wants to be a fourth-grade teacher, and fourth-grade teachers don’t need to know much about nineteenth-century literature, but it’s always bothered her that Jack’s so well read and she isn’t. And Val, Brooke and Alyssa’s mother, who lives in Orlando, sends them lots of books, current bestsellers mostly, but sometimes a classic she thinks they should read.

Have you decided what you’re going to do your paper on, Terri? Brooke asked Mom.

Mom took a bite of the tilapia and shook her head. "I’d like to do it on Jane Eyre, she said. But my professor said she’s read too many papers on Jane Eyre and we have to pick something else. She said not enough students write papers on War and Peace, but I’m not even sure I’ll finish it before the final. War and Peace is awfully long."

I don’t like long books, Alyssa said. I think there should be a rule that books can’t be more than two hundred pages.

There’d be a lot fewer good books with that rule, Brooke said.

Yeah, I said. But there’d be a lot more trees.

You know something? Jack said, as we sat at the table, eating and laughing. Tolstoy was wrong.

About what? Brooke asked, helping herself to the string beans.

Who’s Tolstoy? Alyssa asked.

"He wrote War and Peace, Mom said. And a lot of other very long books. What was Tolstoy wrong about, darling?"

He said all happy families are alike, Jack replied. Unhappy families are all different.

What’s wrong about that? I asked.

Well, look at us, Jack said. We’re a happy family. But we’re not identical to other happy families. Happy families come in their own shapes and varieties, same as the unhappy ones.

Are we going to stay a happy family if I go to USC? Brooke asked.

I thought you were going to go to North Carolina, I said, and take that lacrosse scholarship.

I haven’t decided yet, Brooke said. So, Dad, how happy will we be if I pick USC instead?

North Carolina’s kind of equidistant between us and Orlando, I said. If you go to USC, we’ll hardly ever see you.

Brooke said she hasn’t decided yet, Mom said to me.

I know, I said. I heard her.

Jack looked straight at Brooke. Have you talked to your mother about it? he asked.

Not yet, Brooke said. We’ve both been too busy to talk.

Speaking of your mother, she called today, Jack said. There are some changes in plans for your spring vacation.

What changes? Alyssa asked. She’s taking me to Brussels, right? For the tournament?

Dad, it was all set, Brooke said. Terri and I were meeting Mom in Maryland for my dressage test. Then she was coming back here to take Lyss to Brussels. What happened this time?

First of all, I would appreciate it if you didn’t use that tone of voice when you’re talking about your mother, Jack said.

I’m sorry, Dad, Brooke said. But I know I’m not going to like what’s coming.

No, it isn’t that bad, Jack said. Your mother’s trip to Munich was postponed, so she won’t be able to come here.

But I can still go to Brussels, Alyssa said, and I could hear the panic in her voice. Daddy, it’s my first international tournament. I’ve got to go.

Your mother understands that, Jack said. So she asked her parents to fly here. Gram will go with you and Terri to the dressage test, Brooke, and Grandy will take Alyssa to Brussels. He smiled at his daughters. Monday, Gram and Brooke will fly to Switzerland for a few days of skiing, then go on to Brussels, and you’ll all fly back together.

Mom was going to see me play, Alyssa said. I want her to see how good I’ve gotten.

She wants to see it too, Jack said. She’s hoping to get to Brussels for the quarterfinals.

None of us asked what would happen if Alyssa didn’t make it to the quarters. She always did.

Lauren’s in Europe, isn’t she? Alyssa asked me.

Lauren is my best friend, my only real friend outside of the kids in choir. She’s spending her junior year abroad.

Spain, I said. Madrid.

I was looking forward to being home for the week, Brooke said. Have a do-nothing vacation, like Willa.

Willa’s going to keep busy enough, Mom said. She’ll be working on turning her B’s into A’s.

Willa’s grades are fine, Jack said. He smiled at me. Maybe we’ll take an overnight trip to Washington, he said. Go to the Smithsonian. Tour the White House. What do you say, Terri? Think we could swing that?

Mom nodded. That sounds nice, she said.

Good, Jack said. It’s settled. Brooke and Alyssa with their mom and grandparents. You and Willa and me with the president.

Once, when I was eleven, before we moved so Brooke and Alyssa could live with us, Jack found me sitting on the kitchen floor, crying. He asked me what was the matter, and I told him that all the girls in sixth grade were prettier than me.

Oh, pumpkin, Jack said. You don’t want to waste your pretty years in middle school. Not on middle-school boys. Wait until they’re ready to see how beautiful you are. High school, or even college. You can hold off until then, can’t you?

Will I really be pretty then? I asked him.

Jack helped me up off the floor and hugged me. You’ll be as pretty as you want to be, he said. And all the boys will notice.

I’m sixteen now, and a long way from beautiful, but I’ve noticed that on days when I feel pretty, the boys in my school do seem to notice. And I’m glad I didn’t waste my pretty years on middle school.

That night, at supper, I knew we really were a happy family. Happy didn’t mean all singing and dancing. Brooke and Alyssa weren’t shy about letting Mom or Jack know when they were unhappy about something. There were battles of will, flashes of temper.

But I knew enough about stepfathers and stepsisters to understand how lucky we were, how hard Jack and Mom worked to make sure we knew we were part of the same family, equally loved by both of them.

It couldn’t have been easy for either of them. Jack already shared custody with Val when Mom met him. The first few years after they got married, the three of us lived in a house about an hour away from Val’s. Brooke and Alyssa spent practically every weekend with us, and Christmas vacation, and summer when they weren’t at camp or visiting their grandparents. Jack was a sports reporter for the Union Gazette, so he worked on weekends, but that didn’t matter. Brooke was busy with dressage, and Alyssa with tennis lessons, so Mom did the chauffeuring, and either I’d tag along with her or I’d go to football or basketball games with Jack. I liked it best when Brooke came with us. She’s a year older than I am, and I worshiped her. Alyssa is two years younger than I am, but she only worships other tennis players.

We were a happy family then too. We even stayed a happy family when Val got transferred for three years to Shanghai. Alyssa refused to go with her, and Brooke admitted she didn’t want to.

Jack and Mom had a lot of discussions about the situation, none of which I was supposed to hear but did anyway. Val came over a few times when Alyssa was at tennis practice and Brooke was taking her violin lesson. I made sure to eavesdrop then.

But even with all my spying, I was still shocked when Jack and Mom and Val sat us down together and explained what was going to happen. Jack and Mom were going to sell our house and buy one in Westbridge, where Brooke and Alyssa lived. That way they could continue to go to Fairhaven Academy, and Alyssa could keep her tennis coach and Brooke her violin teacher and riding academy. Mom would quit her job so that she’d be available to take Brooke and Alyssa where they needed to go (Val’s housekeeper used to do that). Jack’s commute would be a little longer, and I’d transfer to the middle school in Westbridge. It was easier for us to move than for Brooke’s and Alyssa’s lives to be disrupted.

I’d grown up with Brooke and Alyssa, and they were as close as sisters to me, but that didn’t keep me from crying that night. Mom came into my room, sat on my bed, and held my hand.

I know this isn’t easy for you, Willa, she said. But it would break Jack’s heart if Brooke and Alyssa went with Val to Shanghai.

But why can’t they move here? I cried. Why do we have to give up everything?

We’re not giving up everything, Mom said. We’re moving from one nice house to another one, and you’re changing schools. I’ll get to be a stay-at-home mom, for you and Brooke and Alyssa. Think of what the girls are giving up. They’ll only get to see Val once or twice a year for the next three years. You’ll still have Jack and me and our home together.

But I don’t want to start a new school in February, I said. It’s not fair.

Mom kissed me on my cheek. Shush, she said. You don’t want Jack to hear you, honey. He has to do what’s best for the girls. It’ll be fine. You’ll see.

I wanted to ask Mom if Jack would still love me, but even though I knew her answer would be yes, of course he would, I was too frightened to ask. Instead I did everything I could to make the move easier, and even when we all settled in together and Mom told us that Brooke would have her own room, since she was the oldest, and Alyssa and I would share, I didn’t complain. Alyssa did, loud and long, but she didn’t have to worry about losing Jack and she didn’t seem to care if she lost Mom.

But Jack and Mom made it work. Jack flew with Brooke and Alyssa to Shanghai every Christmas, and Val stopped by each summer and took her daughters on vacation trips to London and Paris and Rome. Brooke left Fairhaven Academy for Westbridge High and added lacrosse to her activities. Alyssa stayed on at Fairhaven, continued with her tennis, and was ranked sixteenth nationally in her age group.

Because Jack had never adopted me, my name hadn’t been changed to McDougal. Everyone at school knew Brooke McDougal, but only those kids who knew her or me well knew we were stepsisters. To everyone else, I was just Willa Coffey, reasonably pretty, with a nice voice, good grades, and a handful of friends.


I REMEMBER SOMETHING ELSE that happened that night, something I might not have remembered if things had stayed the same.

It was after supper. Alyssa and I were in our room. I was studying for my French test. Alyssa, who should have been studying, was on her laptop. Brooke knocked on the door and came in carrying three red sweaters. Two were bright red and one was burgundy, but they were all red sweaters.

Mom’s been going crazy since she came back, Brooke said. I didn’t even know they sold sweaters in Orlando.

Val had been transferred to Orlando in August. Brooke didn’t want to start a new high school senior year, and although Alyssa had been willing to move to Florida, it was only to go to a tennis academy and Jack had said she was too young. Val had taken to sending the girls packages two or three times a week, clothes mostly, but also books and jewelry and whatever was newest in electronics.

What are you going to do with all those sweaters? Alyssa asked.

There’s no point keeping them, Brooke said. There’re another three in my bedroom. Willa, would you like a red sweater? Or two? Or five?

This was a ritual we had. Brooke always asked me first if I wanted what she was discarding. And I always said no, since I was uncomfortable taking things that her mother had paid for.

How about you, Lyss? Brooke asked. Could I interest you in a red sweater or two? Or five?

No, thanks, Alyssa said. Mom’s sent me a half dozen too.

I’ll give mine to the St. James rummage sale, then, Brooke said. Someone might as well get use out of them.

The St. James rummage sale has made a fortune from Brooke’s donations over the years. I’ve bought a few things there myself, but never anything Brooke donated.

Do you really think you’ll go to USC? I asked.

If I can convince Mom, Brooke replied. She’s the one who’ll be paying.

Would you take Sweetbriar with you? Alyssa asked.

She’s not worth transporting, Brooke said. "I’ve wanted a better horse for a while now

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Ce que les gens pensent de Blood Wounds

16 évaluations / 13 Avis
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Avis des lecteurs

  • (3/5)
    I’ve had this ARC on my shelf for a while now. I couldn’t bring myself to read something that seemed so heavy. But after picking it up I realized that it wasn’t as heavy as I thought it would be. Willa is really your average teenager of a blended family. Her mother, stepfather and stepsisters all seem like one big happy family; until the new that Willa’s father killed his wife and two of his three daughters. Everyone thinks that “Budge” is on his way to Willa and her mother, though they aren’t sure what for.

    We go on the journey with Willa as she heads to the place where she was born to attend the funerals of the sisters she never knew. With so much of that part of her past not remembered, since she was like 4 when her mother got them out, it is hard for her to be there. She wants to know what her father was like in the years that she didn’t know him and while there she meets the older brother that she doesn’t remember having.
    Back home after the funerals, Willa realizes that things aren’t as perfect and “happy” as she thought. Everything is changing and Willa seems to be getting the short end of the stick as always. When Willa is informed that she has the chance to accept an inheritance she isn’t really sure what to do. In the end I believe she made the right decision and I was happy with the way the book ended.
  • (4/5)
    A dark and powerful family drama.
  • (3/5)
    As I was thinking about what rating to give I found myself doing that eeny meanie mynee mo thing. I was stuck between 3 and 4. Most of the book was just okay. But with juvie and ya books I try to review and rate from the perspective of how that marketed group would feel. Luckily I have a house full of girls at various ages and a lot of times I get them to read the books to and then we discuss them if a review has me stumped. Thats where I was with this one and I agreed with my daughter that there were parts of it that were interesting for the most part it was just so-so. So together we landed on 3 stars.
  • (2/5)
    Not what I expected. I thought maybe it would be a crime novel from a runaways point of view, but it's not. I kind of felt like I was reading about someone who knew someone that something bad had happened to. I just felt removed from the story and didn't really connect with Willa in any way. After finishing the novel I would much have rather read it from her mother's perspective. It was a quick and easy read, and I do like how Pfeffer writes, but there was almost too much crammed in too soon, characters are hastily introduced and we're expected to care. Like with Trace, Willa's half-brother whom she's never/rarely met before and doesn't immediately recognize her when they meet up in her father's home. Just a mere day or so later she's telling him she loves him because he's her brother. I get what the author was trying to do, what with all the blending of families and how it doesn't matter where you came from, it's where you end up, but it was just pushed way too far in some cases.
  • (2/5)
    Willa's life in the beginning is awesome. A freaking holy grail of a blended family. Particularly with her stepfather, Jack, and his ex-wife, there seemed to be a real sense of 'do what's best for the girls', the 'girls' being Willa's two stepsisters. I was actually really happy to see that kind of compatibility for a blended family happen in a book. Made me think it could be real. Too bad it was a setup. Blood Wounds, in case you can't tell by the mugshot cover, is not a happy times book. In fact, I'm surprised that Willa is Miss Mugshot on the cover, because frankly, she's one of two, maybe three, characters who acted with any decency, and the other two were minor characters. Unless the mugshot is supposed to represent how she consistently gets trapped and bullied by the horrible selfishness of her family. And for the record, her family is a great big ball of 'you people suck', and that goes for both her blended family and the one she never knew on her biological dad's (and mom's) hometown of SmallTown, Texas. There is a lot going on in this book, but most of it is undercurrent until about halfway and then it steadily reveals itself all the way through to the end. You will not get what this book is really about from the synopsis - I thought I'd be reading a book about a girl and her mom on the run from her crazy father for the entire book, with Willa learning family secrets from her mom and facing hard truths along the way. While they do go into hiding for a short section and while Willa does do the latter in a sense, it's not in the way you think it'll happen. It's much more about Willa making her peace with a family she never knew, finding her own voice within the family she grew up in, and trying to figure things out by confronting the her mother's past and the facade of perfection that her blended family exudes. The plot is steady the whole way through. There is a moment of anxiety when the cops show up at Willa's house and no one seems to know where her mom is; but otherwise, the plot is pretty even keel and flows on a diet of Willa coming to terms with who her parents are/were, and how she fits into the many family dynamics she has to contend with. You may have noticed my temper flare a wee little bit in the paragraph above. That's because I really do not like her blended family. I get family loyalty, but there was this sneaky sense of, "If you really love me, you'll do things my way" that was always present in conversations and influencing actions. For the record, such emotional manipulations are not 'love'; they are bulls%$#. In particular, I really don't like Willa's mother. To be fair, I didn't really dislike her until the end, and she's an extremely complex person. Actually, I wouldn't mind reading an 'adult' fiction novel with her as the protagonist. As much as I didn't like her, she's seemed to have had a difficult life caused both by her own crappy decisions, as well as consequences beyond her control. I feel like her story and own 'coming-of-age' could be just as significant as Willa's, I didn't really see her come full circle. Truthfully? I'm predicting splitsville for her and Jack. I feel like their entire family was based on a pyramid scheme of emotional usury. I read the entire book pretty quickly, it flowed at a steady pace, and Willia has a decent voice. I really admired who she became at the end of the book. She really handled herself, and if she were real, she'd grow up to be someone you'd be proud to know. However, Blood Wounds wasn't a stellar read for me. This is a tough review for a book with tough issues, but there was something 'off' for me. Typically, I L-O-V-E a good 'issues' book. Blood Wounds has decent writing, but there was a little too much crazy in the plot for me to handle. I really wish it had either been about just Willa coming to terms with what her father had done and the family she never knew -OR- had been about her blended family situation (and her unhealthy way of dealing with it). There was certainly enough dysfunction to support the latter. I think in the end, Willa had so much dysfunction in her life that it made be feel like there was no support for her or the book itself. I need a little hope or some redemption with my stories, and in the end, I just don't feel like I had enough give me that.
  • (4/5)
    Willa already feels lost inside her own, seemingly perfect family. She feels like Brooke and Alyssa (her stepfather Jack's daughters) get priority over her, even with her Mother. Willa has taken to cutting to dull the pain of going unnoticed inside her own family and trying to be perfect. But then something changes in an instant - Willa's biological Father, Dwayne 'Budge' Coffey, is on the run with one of his other daughters after mudering the other two and their Mother. And the cops thinks that he's headed for Willa and her Mother. At first this doesn't mean much to Willa because she doesn't even really remember Budge or her life when her Mother was still married to him. But then after Budge is killed by the police in her front yard, with the deacpitated body of the last of her sisters in the car, she decided that she wants to know more about Pryor (the town they left behind) and the other half of her DNA. So she goes to the funeral for Budge's wife Crystal and her sisters Kellie Marie, Kadi and Krissi. In doing so she seemingly alienates her Mother, Jack, Brooke and Alyssa. None of them will answer her calls. But Willa gets to know her older brother Trace, stumbles onto memories she didn't even know she had and learn who she is on her own and within her strange, twisted family unit. Sometimes the truth is harsh, but Willa only becomes stronger for it. I really enjoyed this book a lot. The description makes it sound like the book was mostly about hiding from her Father, but really it was about Willa coming to terms with who she is, and who her family is - that none of them are even close to one-dimensional or perfect people. Definitely worth reading and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes mysteries, true-crime, and books with complex family relationships.VERDICT: 4.5/5 Stars*No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores and online.*
  • (5/5)
    Blood Wounds is a bone-chilling, suspenseful, keep reader's on the edges of their seat dark and thrilling read. It's rather interesting, that blood can both heal and wound at the same time, and to have Pheffer utilize that in a well developed, carefully crafted, and compelling novel is not only unique but quite a bit disturbing on some natural level. The writing and world building, were quite clever and her character's and their development throughout the novel as it builds to climax, were written and executed flawlessly. It did a magnificent job of showing that the world is dark, gritty, and violent just as much as it's filled with horrifying and tragic news of events that happen everyday in life.This is a book that will stay with readers, long after they've read it. It seems, in many ways, that it was one that almost needed to be written, so that the story could leave its mark on people however good or bad that would be. At certain points it was easy to connect and sympathize with Willa. She is strong, relatable, and incredibly brave, in the face of everything that she has to deal with as she's discovering who she is beneath the facade she presents to the world, learning how to be strong for herself, and discovering who her other half of the family is such as who her father is and her other siblings.Blood Wounds provides a dark gritty outlook on what a lot of young adults might be struggling with, such as the secret Willa keeps of her cutting. The lies, secrets, and pent up resentment are exposed and brought to the surface, as a way of showing that things may not always appear as they seem on the outside and certain actions can lead to events followed through.There is a broad range of psychological emotions and reactions to things that occurr, as the story progresses, that will keep the reader engaged as well as possibly causing them a bit of discomfort. It is a brillant mass of complications that is highly thought provoking and quite spectacularly written. At times, it appears difficult to take in some doses, but in other's reader's will be able to see there is a deeper meaning and reasoning for the story being told. Family is defined and re-defined in so many ways throughout this novel, that it's incredibly sad, yet beautifully illustrated in other's. For every action, there is a consequence or a price to be paid, and Blood Wounds will re-affirm that over and over. For everyone who is capable of doing good in the world, there are other's who are just as capable of promoting evil, violence, and carrying out horrific tragedies with none other than their victims blood left staining their hands. Reader's will get a sense of this, while reading this novel and it will stay with them long after they've turned the last page.It is a fast-paced, well written and developed, tension filled novel, that will chill reader's to the bone. It's likely a story that will be forgotten soon, perhaps that's the great thing about what Pfeffer has done with this story.
  • (4/5)
    One thing I loved about this book, is that it was not what I was expecting. There is so much to the story, so much back round, and freshness to the story that I read it quickly.The plot line of this book is what grabbed me. Here we have a girl who is thrown in a world full of secrets that she didn't know. And when all of them start spilling, she is determined to know why. Ms. Pfeffer did a great job in capturing the essence of a teenager wanting answers. I like that when I was reading this book that I was just as determined as the main character Willa, to know what happened.Through the pages, the reader discovers not only Willa growing into her self, but also coming to peace with the secrets.As you know, I love secrets. As the reader, you aren't given all the secrets at once. Which is good cause I loved the learn secrets pieces by piece. Ms. Pfeffer grabs the reader by droppings hints, then leads them to a whole other level. Having said that, these secrets aren't much enlightening, but bring more of a character to Willa and her mother. It gives these characters a great back round story of what their past was like and how they came to be. Ms. Pfeffer definitely gave her characters a uniqueness and a special shape.If you have not read this book you should. There isn't so much drama, but this book doesn't need that. The secrets the book harbors itself, the way Willa is, is a whole new discovery. As I read this, I enjoyed being in Willa shoes and fell in love with Ms. Pfeffer writing. I am looking forward to reading more of her works.
  • (4/5)
    I loved Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It. It was depressing, creepy, and wonderfully written. While Blood Wounds was depressing and wonderfully-written as well, I didn't find it as creepy as I had assumed I would. I think that has something to do with the fact that the synopsis of the Blood Wounds makes it seem like this is going to be a page-turning thriller with Willa basically running for her life due to her murderous father. Now, that's not exactly how it works out. The actual "Willa running for her life" scenario really only fills like a third of the book. Most of Blood Wounds was focused on the aftermath, which although intriguing, didn't interest me as much as the thriller aspect did. I guess one of the main reasons I really liked Blood Wounds was because I identified with Willa. She felt expendable and ignored sometimes. Plus, she was really the quiet "good girl" that everyone assumed was fine because she was always doing what she was supposed to be doing. Again, I relate. Plus, while Willa's life is angst-filled, I never once got that "whiny teenager/attention seeker" vibe from her. I found her to be genuine in her feelings. I also liked the way Pfeffer wrote the whole blended family aspect of Blood Wounds. There was no one person who was at fault for Willa's problems. Every single one of these characters contributed to the family not really working in a harmonious way. The mom was too worried about screwing anything up, Jack was walking on eggshells when it came to his ex-wife, and the stepsisters were just as confused as Willa was. So I liked that there was no one part of the family that was solely at fault. However, I did find the resolution in regards to the whole family a little bit "let's just tie a bow at the end for the hell of it." So, all in all, I found Blood Wounds to be really well-written and an overall enjoyable, page-turning book. However, I was disappointed at the synopsis for making people believe that the story was more of a thriller than it actually was.
  • (1/5)
    Terrible. Honestly, terrible even for YA -- insulting to the discerning teenage reader. First of all, the plot that occurs after the murder is all nonsense. Trying to avoid spoilers here, but her parents would never let her go there, that family friend would never leave her alone with strangers, and the local police would never allow her to wander around unescorted. I guess it shouldn't be unexpected, then, that everything she does in the town is ridiculous and idiotic and her mom continues to be an immature mess the rest of the novel. The writing packs zero emotional punch, which is strange for something about dysfunctional families uncovering their buried secrets. The "point" of her self-harm is frankly insulting to real sufferers of mental illness. The "twist" of her perfect family not being perfect was poorly done and again, because there was no emotional element to the writing, we never understand anything about her nonsensical actions. And why was her uncle in a cult? What does that even mean? It's never explained, just mentioned offhandedly multiple times without resolution. You can't just have a person be in a cult without being part of the plot. Did the author forget to include that subplot or something? Or was that just code for "he became a Buddhist/Mormon/other religion of which the author does not approve"?Not recommended.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    Blood Wounds is an incredibly emotional read. From the very first page, Susan Beth Pfeffer captivates the reader with an intense first story arc: the search for Willa’s father, the murderer. The book is broken up into three parts, and the first part is by far the most exciting. It’s nearly impossible to put Blood Wounds down while Willa’s father is still at large. The last two parts of the book focus more on family: Willa discovering her roots; the somewhat unbalanced dynamic of a blended family. It’s these pages that really speak to the reader; they make you feel outrage and sadness right along with Willa. Blood Wounds isn’t a happy story by any means, but it does command attention and leave you feeling very, very lucky.Willa is quite a conflicted heroine, which makes her unrelatable (at least in my case) but also fascinating. She has a cutting problem, which initially seems like a focal point of the story, but ends up taking a back seat (though things are tied up in the end, thankfully). Willa also has a haunting past and a meek personality. These glaring issues make her growth throughout the story all the more impressive.Willa does have positive traits, though: she has a stubborn curiosity towards self-discovery; she copes well with the drama in her life; and she is very observant—she picks up on things easily.Willa is the character most developed in Blood Wounds, but the members of her family are also built up very well. Susan Beth Pfeffer evenly develops most of the secondary characters to make the story seem vibrant and real.Blood Wounds covers a lot of ground in its two hundred or so pages. It examines family, self-discovery, and sacrifice—all of which are catalyzed by a single event. Susan Beth Pfeffer’s writing is simple, yet her tone is dramatic and powerful. Blood Wounds will appeal to readers who enjoy contemporary YA but are looking for something a bit more explosive. The beginning of the story will hook you, but the last third of Blood Wounds will touch your heart.
  • (3/5)
    I have mixed feelings about Blood Wounds. I enjoyed the story, but felt like the characters were really cardboard and emotionless. But the more I read, I think they were SUPPOSED to be that way—that’s part of the story. Let me try to explain.Willa’s life is just great. She has a perfect, loving, blended family. Her mother is married to Jack, who has two daughters, Alyssa and Brooke. They all live together in a nice house, and have dinner together on Wednesdays, even though they are very busy. You see, Alyssa is a very good tennis player, and Brooke rides horses, and is involved in sports. Terri, Willa’s mom, doesn’t work so that she can help get the girls to all their lessons and events. Willa enjoys singing in the school choir. They are just one big happy family.But, there’s more to this family. There’s the fact that Val, the stepdaughters’ mother, pays for all of their lessons and part of the mortgage, because she’s rich and her job involves a lot of travel. She is always sending the girls presents, taking them on trips, and buying them things. Jack loves Willa like his own daughter, but can’t provide the things that his own daughters have. Even after years of this, Willa and Terri have never complained about the unfairness of this situation.Willa is just too perfect. She’s always loving and never complains. There is never an argument in the house – Terri knows that Jack doesn’t like conflict, and there’s no way she can lose him, so she’s always happy and agreeable to. Things that would cause most teens to erupt just don’t seem to faze Willa. Part of the reason is because Willa cuts herself. She has very strict rules about how often and for what reason, and so far she’s been able to keep it under control, but sometimes it’s the only thing that helps her deal with this plastic life. It’s like there’s a glass bubble over the family waiting to be shattered. And, it does get shattered. The “shattering” involves Willa’s biological father, Budge, and he enters her life in a very violent way. Willa has never known much about her real family or her mom’s home town because Terri has never wanted to discuss it. So part of Willa’s experience is finding out about her heritage, and Terri’s realizing that the life she is leading isn’t the perfect life she has pretended to have.Pfeffer reveals the story expertly. We slowly see things fall apart—the shields come down, and we realize what kind of life this family really has. Then we see them begin to put their lives back together in a more healthy way. It’s a good story about family. Sometimes a bit over dramatic, and sometimes the characters felt very flat, but I think teen girls would enjoy this problem novel.