Friday, April 20, 2012

Zero by Tom Leveen

Zero is an artist, or at least she thought she was until her dream college revoked her scholarship.  Without the money to attend, and since she isn't speaking to her best and only friend, Zero is now stuck with an empty summer, full of her parent's fighting.  To escape, Zero seeks out the punk rock clubs and becomes friends with a group of guys in the band Gothic Rainbow, in particular the drummer, Mike.  Slowly Zero begins to find the courage and confidence to seek out her dream of art.

It was clear right away that Zero didn't think much of herself.  I mean, she's letting everyone call her Zero.  It's not hard to see how she got a low opinion of herself, however.  Art is her one love, but she didn't have a teacher in high school that could help her strengthen her skills.  The rejection from college hit her hard, and now she thinks she sucks at the one thing that made her happy.  Zero is a bit of an outcast, her one close friend being Jenn, who she's now cut herself off from.  Her home situation isn't great.  Her father is an alcoholic who's drinking a good portion of the family's income (which is why Zero can't afford college).

I thought a nice aspect was that Zero's journey to self-confidence was also reflected in her mother.  Zero's mother was pretty beaten down.  She yelled and screamed at Zero's father and froze everyone out, but she couldn't do anything that would actually help or change their situation.  It was really great to see her at the end stand up and tell her husband that he either needed to get help or get out.  Zero and her mother can help each other much more than either of them thought.

Zero's journey to a more confident her starts with a boy.  This did not bother me at all, because it doesn't end there.  Mike helps Zero a lot, and encourages her, which she did not have in her life before.  He can see merit in her art and suggests taking art classes over the summer to work on her technical skills.  Zero mentions her weight a lot.  She's clearly her self-conscious not only about her self-worth but also her physical appearance.  She makes comments about how ugly she is, and how fat.  We realize much later on, however, that most of this is in her head.  Mike helps her see that she's hiding underneath her big baggy close.  Having someone other than your mom tell you you're beautiful goes a long way.

At the end of the book, Mike and his band are leaving for their big break, and he asks Zero to go with him.  I didn't know what choice she was going to make.  She took the time to think about it and weigh the good and the bad.  If it was the Zero at the beginning of the book, she would have been gone in a second.  But this new Zero had dreams of her own and was starting to put her life back together.  There were things she wanted to do, and so she made the incredibly difficult choice of saying goodbye to Mike, even though she loved him.  I was very proud of Zero.  I was also proud that she had started using her real name, Amanda.

I could have done without some of the side-plot, like the pregnancy scare.  I felt it was unnecessary.   The main plot was strong and the pacing was good.

Zero comes out April 24, 2012

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