Willow is: a 12-year-old genius; a "person of color" living with her white adoptive parents; someone who loves plants; and a girl starting at a new school for a chance to fit in. When she takes a standardized test and gets a perfect score on it she is accused on cheating and is sent for counseling with Dell Duke, a man just trying to skate along without being truly invested in anything. While waiting for her appointment with Dell one day Willow meets Mai, an older Vietnamese girl whose brother is also being "counseled" by Dell. The two girls become friends and a couple of weeks later convince Dell to take them all out for ice cream. And so it happens that Dell drives Willow home on the day both of her parents were killed in a car accident. Knowing that she will be put into a foster home Mai convinces her mother, Pattie, to take Willow in on a temporary basis but because their family lives in a garage, they use Dell's address on all the paperwork. When the time comes for their first home visit, Pattie takes charge of Dell's apartment and the whole group begins to form their own community as Willow slowly returns to life.
I've come to realize that I'm very fond of magical realism as a genre and while this probably doesn't actually fit the bill since everything that happens is realistic, it has the feel of magic. It's also one of those books that has a lot going on but you don't really realize that until you're done and reflect on what you've just read. Goldberg is skilled at taking you through the changes in each character slowly while weaving all of their stories together, just like real life. A really lovely book.