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…
Some adults will never know the absolute beauty contained between the covers of middle grade novels. I feel so sorry for people who don’t crack them open. When people ask me for recommendations, I always suggest YA or MG novels.
“After Zero” is the perfect example of why I speak so highly of these novels. The characters in this book are so memorable. Elsie struggles with the inability to vocalize her feelings about anything but doesn’t know why. She wants to be like other kids but the quiet envelopes her. Because of this, she develops anxiety, OCD, the need to keep track of how many words she speaks in a day. She tries to convince herself that she’ll only do it for a few days, a week at most.
That was in September… now it’s April 5th. Five days before her 13th birthday. Now, tons of secrets begin to surface. Her mind begins to play tricks on her. She learns things about her past. She can’t trust anyone or anything, not even herself.
What she learns about herself on this journey will amaze you. “When you need help, the universe will send something to help you“. We don’t always understand the form it will take but in hindsight, things will clear.
I don’t care what age you are, what genre you enjoy, or what you have on your TBR shelf. I highly suggest this story and many others reviewed on our blog written for MG or YA! Happy reading!
Christina Collins grew up in Massachusetts and now lives in Northern Ireland, where she’s always on the lookout for castle ruins and secret gardens. She holds an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University and is pursuing a PhD in creative writing at Queen’s University Belfast. She has taught at both universities and has been a writer-in-residence at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts as well as the Art Commune program in Armenia. After Zero is her debut novel. Learn more at christinacollinsbooks.com, or follow her on Twitter (@stinacoll).