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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Zero by Tom Leeven

 For aspiring artist Amanda Walsh, who only half-jokingly goes by the nickname Zero, the summer before college was supposed to be fun—plain and simple. Hanging out with her best friend Jenn, going to clubs, painting, and counting down the days until her escape. But when must-have scholarship money doesn't materialize, and she has a falling out with Jenn that can only be described as majorly awkward, and Zero's parents relationship goes from tense to relentless fighting, her prospects start looking as bleak and surreal as a painting by her idol Salvador Dali. Will life truly imitate art? Will her new, unexpected relationship with a punk skater boy who seems too good to be real and support from the unlikeliest of sources show Zero that she's so much more than a name.

I'm not much of an artist myself. I like art, and the yearly trips to the musems in elementary school didn't bother me much, but I haven't been much of an artiste. I left that to my sister.

So I found this ARC on NetGalley. I had read Tom Leeven's first book Party about a year ago. Both books dealt with the artisty, gritty scene of Los Angeles and the surrounding area. And what did I think?

I'm still unsure, and I finished this book three days ago. But I guess if I had to rate it, say how I felt in more cohesive terms, well, I'd say it was okay.

Party is the story of Amanda. She just graduated from high school, and plans to go into a career as an artist. She's got everything down pat, is ready to go to SAIC, the art college of her dreams. And then her scholarship money -- the only thing getting her to the expensive college -- falls through, and she falls into a whirlwind.

Her parents are fighting constantly and on the rocks of divorce; she has a horrible relationship with her best friend; and she has no idea what to do in the fall. To keep her busy, Amanda's parents make her enroll in community college to take a few art courses and she decides to attend some late-night concerts to feel connected to the "art scene".

I never really connected with Amanda. She has a strong voice which I'll mention later, and sounds like a teenage girl, but she seems disconnected. I symapthized with her, but it was hard at times to read the narrative since it was disconnected. She was so disconnected from the reader, in both grief and anger, that it was hard to read.

I did like her voice, though. She sounded like a raw, gritty teenage girl living, essentially, on the edge of her world.

I do think that Leeven populated his story with some cliches. The angry, on-the-brink parents; the girl seperated from her best friend due to a secret that I found easy to guess; and the girl redempted by love. It didn't affect the story a ton, but at times it seemed painfully obvious like he was running through a checklist:

1. Artsy girl with a secret.
2. Meets boy, fall in love.
3. She discovers big secret that shatters her world...

The climax was...okay. The major secret was revealed, a few "ohmygod" scenes occured where Amanda freaked out, but the majority of the climax was a chapter in a half. By the next chapter Amanda had realized oh, everything's going to be okay, without any reason why she had changed so quickly. She simply woke up, saw the self-portrait she had done, and then realized that everything was fine.

It was an interesting look into the art scene, how everything is so free. I learned some, I guess, considering I'm not in that crowd at all.

I would recommend it more to "artsy" people and those who might be interested in a more "angsty" narrative. A solid read.

Three stars.

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