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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book Review: Zero by Tom Leveen

Zero by Tom Leveen

Series: StandaloneGenre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Format: eARC
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
For aspiring artist Amanda Walsh, who only half-jokingly goes by the nickname Zero, the summer before college was supposed to be fun—plain and simple. Hanging out with her best friend Jenn, going to clubs, painting, and counting down the days until her escape. But when must-have scholarship money doesn't materialize, and she has a falling out with Jenn that can only be described as majorly awkward, and Zero's parents relationship goes from tense to relentless fighting, her prospects start looking as bleak and surreal as a painting by her idol Salvador Dali. Will life truly imitate art? Will her new, unexpected relationship with a punk skater boy who seems too good to be real and support from the unlikeliest of sources show Zero that she's so much more than a name. (Summary from

This book shocked me in the best way possible. I don't know what is up with me in artsy contemporary books, but I just fall in love with each one I read. Zero by Tom Leveen is real. It covers the self-deprecating insecurities that come with being a teenage girl, the frightening excitement that comes with all the firsts of falling in love. Add to that a beautiful swirl of art and music, and you have one marvelous novel!

Zero is an artist with some serious insecurities. She thinks she's a cow and her parents are too busy with their constant fighting to help subside those insecurities. She's afraid that her entire summer is going to be wrapped in boredom because she just lost her best friend and she didn't get accepted into her dream college. Mike is the gorgeous-eyed drummer who had a really bad run with his ex-girlfriend. He's more experienced than she is, but the fact that he was previously burned prevents him from really wanting to GO THERE, if ya know what I mean. Actually, if anything, it was the other way around. Zero pressured Mike to do things he wasn't ready for. I could tell from the get-go that, despite his rockerness, Mike is a good guy and that he is going to treat Zero well. He helped her reach for her goals and dreams. He helped her gain confidence and believe in herself. And, not to mention, I'm sort of obsessed with the drums and have a serious thing for drummer dudes.

I loved their relationship. It began with extreme awkwardness, which made it so real and familiar and relatable. And somehow their feelings bloomed into something that manages to transcend that initial awkwardness. There's no instant, "OMG I LOVE THIS GUY SO MUCH AND WE ARE GOING TO GET MARRIED AND MAKE BABIEZZZZZZZ." Their relationship progressed naturally. There are rough spots and there are not-so-rough (soft?) spots. They're not the perfect couple with this unwavering bolt of lightning crackling between them, but they are perfect for each other and each encounter between the two of them made my tummy tumble in a good way. It did annoy me that Zero refused to listen to what Mike really wanted. She was a little self-absorbed in their relationship, not even when it was extremely obvious that something has him down.

There were little things thrown in the pages that I wish would have surfaced more and caused more drama. Instead they just sort of lurked in the background, adding to the overall angst that Zero feels. I really wish that the situation with Jenn, her former best friend, would have come into the light more. It was a great sub-plot and it didn't get enough page time. Also, I feel the whole parent ordeal was elevated just a little more. It was there screwing up Zero's life and whatnot, but maybe just a little more? Is it horrible that I want her life to be just a tad bit more miserable?

The end, though, left me satisfied. The character and plot growth is obvious. The way things turned out was happy, even though there were a lot of little loose threads hanging from the tied ends.

Overall, I loved this book! It has an unflinching, authentic quality that really stayed with me. Some of the content will make younger audiences uncomfortable (except me, because I clearly have no comfort zone). But underneath it all is a novel about branching out and pursuing what seems to be impossible.

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