Tuesday, January 24, 2012

ARC Review: ZERO

The Book: ZERO
The Author: Tom Leveen
The Publisher: Random House Books For Young Readers
Anticipated Release Date: April 24, 2012

Summary:
Amanda "Zero" Walsh expected the summer between high school graduation and college to be easy and relaxed.  She'd do nothing but go to clubs with her BFF Jenn, paint, and just be a lazy teenager while counting down the days until she could make her big escape to Chicago and art school.

When needed scholarship monies are denied, her friendship with Jenn collapse because of an event that Zero can only describe as majorly awkward and her parents' relationship takes a turn for the nasty, Zero's life starts to look as bleak as a painting by her idol, Salvador Dali, causing Zero to wonder if life really does imitate art.

My Thoughts:
I have to admit that I requested this ARC solely because of the cover art.  Yes, I do judge books by their covers.  Sue me.  While I wasn't disappointed in the least, I have to confess that I was expecting something a little darker.  A little edgier.  ZERO is a sweet story, one that will not exactly lead you down any dark alleys, but there are some times when it definitely skirts the edges of the shadows.

That said...I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!! (<---Note the use of not one, not two, but FOUR exclamation points there. That was no accident, I assure you.)

Amanda Walsh only half-jokingly goes by the nickname Zero, which announces loud and clear to the reader just how highly she thinks of herself.  Until a little more than halfway through the book, I honestly thought she was a fat girl, because that's how she sees herself, always putting herself down, both in her mind and out loud.  Until Mike--beautiful-eyed drummer boy and Zero's love interest--finally has enough of her self-deprecating manner and stands her in front of the mirror to show her just how beautiful she really is.

And Mike! Ahhhh, don't get me started on Mike.  Okay, you twisted my arms.  Mike is probably the best love interest I've encountered in a very long time.  He's awesome.  He absolutely refuses to let his girlfriend have low self-esteem issues.  He's not overly-possessive or domineering--as is often the case in YA novels nowadays.  He's relaxed and easy-going, which is not to say that he doesn't have issues.  He's got them, which inevitably leads to problems when Zero breaks a pretty big promise to him.

But, here's the thing: their perfect.  Both together and separate.  Because of their flaws.  Zero is everything I want my protags to be: smart, witty, and flawed--inside and out.  Mike is the yin to her yang.  No one else could handle Zero and all her issues with such grace and understanding.  He's not your run-of-the-mill LI.  He's not going to always swoop in and save the day, but I didn't want him to. 

And, yes, Zero makes mistakes.  Plenty of them.  But, she muddles through, both with help from others and on her own.  She learns and grows from them, and comes out a better person for having made them.  And, the ending? Not your typical HEA (happily ever after), but it's not tragic at all.  In fact, it's refreshing.  Most stories would end with Zero being discovered as a famous artist, Mike and his band hitting the big time, and the two of them riding off into the sunset together.  Not exactly the case here, but a very satisfying and realistic ending to refreshingly sweet story.

My one-sentence summary: Over the course of a summer filled with love, friendship, family drama, punk music, and Salvador Dali, ZERO learns that she might just be worth more than her name implies.