The Willow Tree is a heartbreaking coming-of-age story similar to White Oleander and with profound introspection akin to that of The Bell Jar. Emma must learn to fight for her emotional stability and life after her mother remarries. She engages in a stormy relationship with her abusive step-father, while her mom slips away to depression. Both book-smart and painfully awkward, she struggles to connect with her peers and eventually finds friends with students who are considered outcasts. Outside of school, her home life becomes more and more turbulent. The bond between Emma and her mother dwindles to only occasional encounters, while her step-father remains present in her waking life and nightmares. Fraught with hiding the stress from deep concerns about her friends’ misjudgments, Emma hides the torment of her step-father’s unrelenting sexual abuse. After his sudden suicide, her feelings she developed for him dangerously lead her down her own self-destructive path.