What Willow Knew, by June Colbert

My name is Sarah Carter, and, when I was sixteen, my aunt disappeared.
Missing presumed dead, was how the police put it. .
My beloved auntie and legal guardian, missing, presumed dead? .
Don’t think so! Not my Willow! .
She was too smart and tough to get killed. She was too paranoid to get killed.

Sarah is seventeen and has lived with her unconventional aunt Willow since her mother died five years ago. Willow used to be a hippy and is still slightly less than conventional. But with her disappearance, Sarah has to move in with her father, his second wife and their family. Sarah still blames Sandy, her stepmother, for the break-up of her parents’ marriage. Moving in with them, sharing a room with ‘the baby’, just makes Sarah more determined to find her aunt and to get her life back. With the help of two friends, the mysterious ‘Hawk’ and an old diary, Sarah discovers more about her aunt’s past. She also hopes to find clues that might lead her to Willow.

What Willow Knew is an intriguing title and this is an intriguing read. The central story question is very clear. What did Willow know and does it have anything to do with her disappearance? Sarah’s childhood has moved in roughly five year stages. First she lives with her parents, then with her mother after her parents’ divorce, then with Willow until her disappearance. When What Willow Knew begins, Sarah is entering a new stage – post-Willow’s disappearance. As well as searching for her aunt, Sarah has a lot of adjusting to do. She has little understanding of, or empathy for, the effect the changes to her life have on others around her. Only as she learns more about her aunt, and realises that she may not come back, does she slowly develop new relationships with her ‘new’ family. Themes of loss, adjustment and family structures sit next to power, corruption, conspiracy theories and long-kept secrets. The reader moves back and forth from the present to the 30-years-ago world of the university student Willow, until the two worlds connect across time. Recommended for upper-primary to mid-secondary students.

What Willow Knew

What Willow Knew, June Colbert
Lothian 2007
ISBN: 9780734409973

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