[Blood Wounds] Susan Beth Pfeffer



Willa has always seen Jack as her father. Although he has been unable to adopt her legally, Jack has provided for her in the way that her biological father never has. Life, for Willa and her mother, Terri, has been better than it ever could have been in the decaying hometown Terri ran away from when Willa was just a little girl. This is all shattered when her estranged father murders his wife and daughters, the sisters she never knew she had. Suddenly, everything that Willa has known is standing on unsteady ground, the little half truths and secrets her mother has been keeping from her pushing into their seemingly perfect, cookie-cutter lives.

In a family that seems perfect, it only makes sense that the cracks that have always been there begin to show when news of the murders come in. Suddenly they can’t be a family that has Wednesday dinners every week. The past that Willa’s mother has been running from catches up to them, and Willa struggles with how her two families fit together.

Blood Wounds is carefully paced to bring the readers straight into the action. There is no unnecessary buildup, so we are able to get into Willa’s head immediately. She has to navigate through the pieces her father has left her all while dealing with her own secrets and anxieties. I thought that Pfeffer did a very good job of presenting natural anxieties that a child of a step-family would feel. Willa was five when her mother married Jack, so she has been conditioned by her mother and herself to feel that because she is very lucky to have such a good father, she shouldn’t feel jealous when her step-siblings get to have expensive tennis lessons and a horse for dressage competitions. Her step-father wants to believe that everything is perfect with their blended family, but it is far from the truth. Even his own daughters have their secrets regarding that. I loved when everything came together in the end. There was healing, but Pfeffer left me wondering if they’d be able to repair the pieces. At what point do the cracks become too wide?

Although I did get annoyed at Willa during certain parts of the book, for the most part I thought that she was very realistic.  Her character development was the strongest out of all the characters, which is to be expected from a novel written in first person. It was interesting to see that most of the character development for Terri, Willa’s mother, was second hand. It was unreliable, however, because people are only able to see the parts of someone that they are willing to show. Terri’s true development came only when Willa was able to understand how where she came from shaped her. Unfortunately, the rest of the characters were very one sided. There wasn’t a lot of development for Willa’s step family.  Although Blood Wounds  is the story of Willa’s growth and coming of age in a way, it could have benefited a bit if her step sisters hadn’t been heavily cast as the spoiled siblings. Pfeffer tried to show otherwise, but their redemption came too late for me.

3 stars.


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