Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review: Zero by Tom Leveen

Zero by Tom Leveen
Reviewed by Noelle: July 11, 2012
Published April 24, 2012 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Goodreads • Buy on AmazonKindleBook Depository

Amanda has always gone by the nickname Zero--an apt description of her self-esteem.  When she gets accepted into a prestigious art school, her "nothing" status at last seems a thing of the past.  Amanda is planning to spend her last summer at home hanging with her best friend, making art and going to see her favorite local bands.  What could go wrong? How about not qualifying for a necessary scholarship.

Just like that the best summer ever has become Zero's worst nightmare.  She's stuck in remedial art classes at the local community college, avoiding her best friend after an awkward drunken moment and ducking for cover as her parents' marriage implodes.  When Zero meets Mike, a drummer in an up and coming local band, he creates a bright spot that shines some hope on her summer, but is it enough to enlighten the path to her future?

Amanda's self-doubt and low self-esteem seem pretty overwhelming at first.  Her Zero nickname is the result of her massive and I do mean massive amount of insecurities--insecurities that weighed down the story with their quantity at first and then didn't have enough heft in their eventual solutions.  I think I would have liked Zero much better if one of her insecurities had turned out to be actually valid:
  • For a majority of the book, the reader is led to believe that Amanda is a little overweight.  Turns out she's just wearing clothing five sizes too big and actually secretly skinny.  
  • Amanda worries she'll be forever alone, but attracts the attention of not one but two of the most appealing characters in the book.  (Don't worry, you're in a no love triangle zone.)
  • Amanda had always based her value as an artist on the compliments of her 7th grade art teacher and I admit I cackled at the importance Amanda placed on evaluations of her talent assessed at twelve years old, but never fear--by the end of the summer, despite focusing a questionable amount of her art around rainbows, she has affirmed her artistic genius.  
Luckily, Zero delivers in other ways. The young love was swoony (despite Mike having the girl's haircut on the cover), the drama was sincere in its angst and after a shaky quippy beginning with too many sex and genitalia jokes for a female protagonist the voice evened out charmingly.  The story goes in some unexpected directions that were handled differently than the typical contemporary YA.

I'm also a sucker for artist neurosis and not only does Amanda love art, her obsession with Salvador Dali gave her passion a detailed depth.  Despite having a pretty extensive interest in art history (thanks to my Mom's bookshelves of art books), Dali was never my guy.  Sure, he seemed pretty interesting but I ended up associating melting clocks with dorm rooms rather than the persistence of memory.

Fast forward to a sophomore year visit to the Salvador Dali museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. Whatever you think of his artwork, there is something about seeing it in it's 15 foot tall glory right in front of you.
Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus

The Hallucinogenic Toreador
It's breathtaking.  I highly recommend visiting the Dali Museum in St. Pete if you have the chance.  My other favorites from the exhibit are Velázquez Painting the Infanta Margarita with the Lights and Shadows of His Own Glory and Galaciadalacidesoxiribunucleicacid (Homage to Crick and Watson).  The amount of detail, the double imagery and layers upon layers of symbolism and meaning in his works are truly fascinating.

While Zero falls short of matching the depth and complexity of the artist it honors, it does feature a lot of my grade-on-a-curve topics (music and art appreciation, fictional boys in bands, song lyric appropriation to fictional situations etc.) and I enjoyed it accordingly.  3/5 stars.

Giveaway:  I was fortunate enough to receive a finished hardcover copy of Zero from the publisher and since I already had an e-book copy on my Kindle I would like to share the wealth!  Enter to receive the brand new hardcover of Zero by Tom Leveen below.  One winner will be randomly selected.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I had several posters in my dorm room. My favorite was Hokusai's Great Wave at Kanagawa. BUT Maureen (of yesterday's event recap fame) likes really lame fantasy pictures and we wanted to make fun of her so junior year we had a room that was just a toilet room in our on campus apartment so we bought two plastic swords and had them above the toilet and then we put like four of her magical paintings on the walls. Like knights and the Lady of Shallott and stuff like that. People were always asking us WTF was up with that:)

    Also, I had posters of DMB, Fight Club, and some other stuff I regret owning.

    1. Hahaha love the fantasy bathroom! Although now that I type that out I really hope you referred to it as such for all the weird looks visitors would give you before figuring out what you meant haha! I love that Hokusai. --N

  2. I've been wondering about this book, mostly because of the cover and from the sounds of it, it ticks a lot of boxes for me too. I don't mind an insecure character (but it does sound like a bit much at the beginning) and I want to read all the swoonyness :) Great review, N!

    1. I hope you entered Miss Rainbow Nails of DESTINY!! :D Thanks Mandee --N

  3. Oh, wow, this sounds really unique! Good thing there isn't a love triangle :) As for the various doses of art, I'm only more intrigued by them. Thanks for the giveaway!

    New follower for sure! Would love to see you around at my blog some time too ;)

    1. As for posters in my dorm room, I have loads of movie posters >:) at least twenty! Movies like Phantom of the Opera, Alice in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice, The Mummy etc etc.

    2. Hi Sel! Thank you for stopping by. I will definitely mosey on over and check out your blog. I love that you had a P&P poster. Darcy 4 EVA etc etc :) --N

  4. Hallucinogenic Toreador is my fav Dali piece! I feel like not enough people know about it!

  5. See, I think I would get way too annoyed over the main character's insecurities and the fact that she is secretly skinny. I think I will pass on Zero but am glad there are elements that made it appeal to you!


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