Zero by Tom Leveen [website | twitter]
UPCOMING Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format read: eBook received via NetGalley
Summary: Zero is an artist. She was accepted into the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), but her life plans change when she isn’t awarded a scholarship. Her best friend, Jenn, is going through some …stuff… and there’s a lot of tension between the two of them now. Zero’s dad is an alcoholic and her mom is super overbearing. Despite all the crap, Zero meets Mike, a boy she falls head over heels for.
Zero’s real name is Amanda Walsh. Her mom calls her Amy, but she loathes that nickname. She picked up the name Zero when she was teased in middle school by a bunch of jerks. It stuck. Now she’s graduated from high school but her summer plans changed when two things happened:
a) she didn’t get the scholarship she needed for art school in Chicago, and
b) her BFF got super weird and they’re not speaking anymore.
That leaves her feeling more alone than ever, even for a girl with the nickname Zero.
She passes the time by going to local shows of punk bands. After a performance by Gothic Rainbow, she decides to approach the drummer with the amazing eyes she wishes she could capture on a canvas. Thus begins the awkward, albeit sweet, relationship between Mike and Zero.
I loved Zero’s character – she was quirky and self-deprecating. She was always a little down on herself about her looks and weight. She fluctuated constantly between hoping she’d make it as an artist to thinking she’d never be good enough. (I could relate to so many of the thoughts floating through her mind.) Tom Leveen did an awesome job of capturing the essence of an insecure, never-been-kissed seventeen-year-old.
I only had a few quirks to overcome while reading, and those pertained to Leveen’s writing style. In several instances, Amanda would have a thought, and then follow it up with, “Discuss.” Other times it would be the phrase, “Here’s the thing,” and things would go a little more into detail. I don’t mind that happening sporadically, but I suppose I’m not one for much repetition, and things like this take away from the story and make me focus on the writing. (Please note this is just a minor complaint.)
As for Mike, he made my insides become a hot mess. He was quiet and nice. Sweet. Definitely awkward. I loved the blending of his musical talents and band with Zero’s artistic abilities. The descriptions of her art and his shows were so vivid. I felt like I was there or involved while she was making art or his band was performing. (Another sidenote: there’s a picture of a boy on the cover. Tell me when you read the book if your imagination depicts a guy who looks like the mohawk-dude on the cover. Mine did not.)
A few things to note:
- This is one of the more… graphic… young adult contemporaries I’ve read. Be prepared for a few hot and steamy scenes that go into more detail than most other YAs.
- Look up the artists that Zero mentions throughout the book (mostly Salvador Dalí) to have a better understanding of some of the descriptions of her work and the emotions she describes by comparing them to paintings.
- Don’t judge this story based on the cover. It implies something darker and heavier, maybe a little more gritty. I found it easy to relate to and didn’t think the cover really captured the essence of Zero.
While the story focuses a lot on the relationships Zero has with all the people around her (crazy mother, drunk dad, awkward boyfriend, lost BFF), it’s mostly about her journey to figuring out who she is. What does she want out of life? Now that all of these changes have occurred around her, how is she going to react and what’s she going to do about it? Zero is a witty, engaging story of self-discovery.
This was my first Tom Leveen book, but I’m definitely anxious to pick up Party now, and look forward to more from him.
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