After Zero was published on 1st September. I got a pre-release copy from the publishers via Net-galley on August 31st. Had I not have been in the middle of something else, I might have got this review out by the weekend. Once I started it, I didn’t want to stop. I read it in one weekend, even so. And I’m using it for my Z in the Alphabet Soup reading challenge – definitely cheating, but I’m getting desperate!
Elise carries a notebook full of tallies, each page marking a day spent at her new public school, each stroke of her pencil marking a word spoken. A word that can’t be taken back. Five tally marks isn’t so bad. Two is pretty good. But zero? Zero is perfect. Zero means no wrong answers called out in class, no secrets accidentally spilled, no conversations to agonize over at night when sleep is far away.
But now months have passed, and Elise isn’t sure she could speak even if she wanted to―not to keep her only friend, Mel, from drifting further away―or to ask if anyone else has seen her English teacher’s stuffed raven come to life. Then, the discovery of a shocking family secret helps Elise realize that her silence might just be the key to unlocking everything she’s ever hoped for…
I’ve been aware I hadn’t been reading much MG this year. I spotted After Zero in my Net-galley email, and read the blurb. I was hooked.
Christina Collins writes a spirited, empathetic schoolgirl not long out of homeschooling into the wild world of the public school (for UK readers, take that as secondary school or academy). I immediately got inside her head, along with all her worries over mispronunciations of words never read out loud (mine were saliva and misled), and the disaster of being made to participate in ‘class discussion’. Elise makes the highly logical decision to avoid speaking whenever possible. She then gets called ‘quiet’ and the word haunts her.
Elise’s experience of homeschooling is not what my friends are doing with their kids. Mom is not interested. Mom clearly has problems of her own. The day Mom leaves her bedroom door unlocked by accident is the day when everything starts to change… Elise’s vow of silence must of necessity be broken in order to solve the mystery of her Mom’s (and her own) past.
After Zero is a brilliant book, full of characters struggling to get through life despite everything thrown at them. What they can’t catch will just have to be left to someone else. Sometimes it means things go full circle, sometimes they are gone forever.