Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Zero by Tom Leveen [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch:  Amanda Walsh, or Amy as her mother calls her, or Zero, as she's nicknamed herself, applied to The School of The Art Institute of Chicago.  She got accepted.  Only thing is?  She can't afford it.  Her scholarship application was rejected.  And then, something weird happened that same day with her best friend Jenn... something she's not getting over easily.  And then, she meets this guy with these intense "emerald-sapphire" eyes, and decides to take a chance on talking to him.  And whaddya know, he talks back.  And then the story follows the relationships in Zero's story until she is forced to make an incredibly hard decision in the end.

Verdict:  I loved Zero/Amy/Amanda Walsh.  Same gal, so we're gonna call her Z to keep it straight.  I thought she was a brilliant character and I saw a lot of myself as a teenager in her.  Probably because the original manuscript was written in the early 90s, when I was almost a teen, but that's beside the point.  Her struggles and reactions were real.  Her thought processes were eerie - Tom, how do you get inside a teenaged girl's head like that?  And really, the characters were awesome on all points.  I love Z.  She's adorable.  Seriously.  And the little punk-rock chick would totally hate me for saying that.  Truth.

Here's the thing.

The plot was flat.  It was more like a character study than a novel.  We got a glimpse of a time period in Z's life, but the plot map looked like this:  _________^__________^______.  Now, if I was in a college class or a place where I was grading this for some reason, I'd take off points for that.  And some of you will no doubt have this as a grip.  Z does experience personal growth... but she also experiences personal regression.

Here's the thing.

Despite the flat plot, I couldn't put the book down.  I thoroughly enjoyed the happenings and issues that Z had to deal with.  So you tell me, is a flat plot a bad thing?  Oh holy heck, I dunno.  I'm just a lowly reviewer on the internet.  It's all about personal preference, I presume.

Also, I loved all of the references to bands and songs, and thank-yous from Z to the lead singers of bands.  Nice touch, Tom.  And I loved the theme of self-discovery.  I really did.  And being a Mesa native, right next to the Phoenix, where the story is set, I'm completely happy that someone has finally described my Sonoran Desert with accuracy - the creosote, the oily rain puddles, and the parents who warn you not to drive in the rain.  I love this desert too, Z.  There are so many great points to this book I almost didn't bring up the flat plot, but hey, what's a girl to do?

For parents:  Strong, strong, language.  Too many uses of the f word to count, and many other swear words at all.  All used well in context and not excessive for me, but you should know about them.  There is parental conflict, with a very alcoholic and borderline abusive father.  There is a sex scene, and allusions to almost-sex scenes not graphically depicted, but the reader gets the point.  There is also a girl to girl scene that doesn't come to fruition.  But that's all in there.  And I'd want to know about it if I was a parent.

Tom Leveen is the author of Party, and now Zero, both pubbed by Random House.  He lives in my wonderful Sonoran Desert. He adequately describes the Phoenix Metro as a black hole for the arts.  And... *Arizona Native Fist Bump*, yo.  OH and he does this totally awesome Halloween thing at Changing Hands.  Don't miss it.