Release Date: April 24th 2012
Publisher: Random House Canada
Buy It: Book Depository
After graduating from a Phoenix, Arizona, high school, aspiring artist Amanda "Zero" Walsh unexpectedly begins a relationship with a drummer in a punk rock band, which helps her come to terms with her feelings about herself, her falling out with her best friend, and her parents' personal problems.I actually wasn't quite sure I was going to finish this novel, because the first few chapters didn't particularly entrance me. But I ended up being so glad I gave it a shot, because the end result was funny, heart-warming, and easy to relate to. One of the things that Leveen did so well was Zero's insecurity about her art and her body. I also really liked that her boyfriend, Mike, isn't okay with it; it was so refreshing to have a love interest that really wants his girlfriend to have confidence in herself, and makes a genuine effort to help her reach that. Of course, in the end confidence has to come from within, but Mike's nudging her in that direction certainly helped.
There are two things that really define Zero, her art and her music, and Leveen incorporates both of these passions throughout the novel. That said, I felt like there were a few too many art comparisons, especially when it came to Dali as a quote by him already began each chapter; everything seemed to be a blank canvas or a melting watch. As a reader, I didn't need that constant reminder that she's an artist, it was already clear, so I wished the references had been toned down a bit. In comparison, the punk lyrics quoted throughout the novel worked great and added a nice dimension to the story, but there were only a few of them. I think that this was a case of "less is more".
The most heart-breaking aspect of Zero's story is her family life, and the nuclear meltdown of her parent's marriage and her father's drinking. I could definitely understand why she wanted to move to Chicago, as it was neither a healthy nor an inspiring place to live. But the way that things wrapped up in that storyline... it just didn't have the emotional punch that I was expecting. Maybe it was because Zero's parents felt a little flat to me, it was like everything was supposed to be explained by the fact that they'd had her as a teenager, which didn't sit quite right with me.
When it came to the relationship between Mike and Zero, I felt like it developed in a really authentic way. I also thought the representation of sex in the various teenage characters' lives was very believable, and appreciated Zero's best friend and her honesty on the subject; if anything, I would have liked there to have been more of Jenn in the story. That said, there was a side plot (minor spoiler, so highlight to read), pregnancy scare, that I could have done without; it seemed like unnecessary drama for no reason and made me roll my eyes a bit.
Overall, Zero– both the character and the novel– surprised me. When I started the book I was skeptical, but the character growth was very strong and the end result was that Zero was a realistic and charming novel, and I would definitely pick up other books by Leveen in the future.