After Zero – Christina Collins

after zero

(Expected publication: September 4th 2018 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

⭐⭐⭐⭐

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…

Review:

Elise is a young girl who is being raised by a distant and (thought to be) unloving mother. Her father was killed when she was very young by  drunk driver.

Elise had a very sheltered childhood – she was homeschooled by her mother (barely) and has very limited contact with the outside world. She finally made a friend with a girl from the neighbourhood named Mel when she was about 7. Elise was so sheltered that she didn’t even know what a birthday or a birthday party was until she made friends with Mel.

The story starts after she has somehow convinced her mother to enrol her in public school and it follows her as she has been going there for 6-7 months. It shows the struggles that she has fitting in and adapting to her new surroundings and peer group. She decides to speak as little as she can until she can figure out how to exist in this new world – but once she gets a handle on it she finds herself unable to stop tallying her words hoping to get to zero.

This is a very interesting look at social dynamics, peer pressures, bullying/mean girl mentality, and selective mutism. It also has a supernatural element that makes you wonder through out the story.

This book would be suitable for older middle grades – ages 11-14.

This was provided for review from netgalley.

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