Willa lives a quiet life with her mother, stepfather and two stepsisters. She sings in the school choir and doesn't mind that her sisters can afford expensive vacations and tennis coaching while she hesitates to ask for voice lessons. Besides, she has a secret coping strategy: When she feels stressed, she cuts herself, letting the pain wash away the difficult feelings.

Willa's contentment is shattered when a phone call brings frightening news: Her birth father, Dwayne, has killed his current wife and two of their daughters and is on the run with the third—and may be making his way toward Willa's family next. Fearing for their lives, her family hides with friends and in motel rooms, watching the news and waiting for an attack. When the immediate danger is resolved, Willa finds herself drawn to her mother's hometown. She tells her family that she wants to attend the funerals of her father's victims, but her real motivation is to seek answers to questions that threaten to overwhelm her. Why has her mother never spoken of the time before she met Jack, Willa's stepfather? What family and friends did she leave behind? What might have caused Dwayne to solve his problems with violence . . . and how much like him is Willa herself? As secrets of her mother's former life are revealed, cracks also begin to appear in the perfect facade of Willa's blended family.

In Blood Wounds, Susan Beth Pfeffer's simple, direct writing style keeps her difficult subject matter accessible, and Willa's first-person narration allows the reader a window into her evolving emotions. The concluding scenes neatly tie together Dwayne's past, Willa's present and her family's future in an endingthat leaves the reader feeling satisfied and hopeful.

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