Willow is a riveting coming-of-age story from award-winning author Tonya Cherie Hegamin (Most Loved in All the World). Set in 1848 on the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, the novel’s narration shifts between Willow, a fifteen-year-old slave, and Cato, a seventeen-year-old free black man, who is dedicated to helping slaves escape to freedom.
Knotwild, the plantation where Willow was born and raised, is on the Mason-Dixon line. Her master is kind and her father overprotective, and she enjoys some small freedoms that slaves on other plantations do not, such as being able to ride her horse, Mayapple, into the woods. But Willow has been taught to read by her master, Reverand Jeffries, and keeps a secret journal hidden in the woods – a dangerous thing.
Willow begins to realize she has little true control over her destiny when her father and master begin making plans for her to marry a man from the neighboring plantation, and her master begins courting a woman who is unkind and quick to find fault. One day while Willow is in the woods, she witnesses Cato helping fugitive slaves across the border. She is intrigued by him and thinks about him constantly. When their paths cross again, Willow must decide between loyalty to her family or following her dreams.
Hegamin has created memorable primary and secondary characters, and Willow’s voice is strong and unique. This is a thoroughly enjoyable book, and a must-read for young adults.