Wednesday, August 4, 2010

From Alice to Zen and Everyone in Between

247 pages
The title of this book stood out to me as I glanced quickly through the new (er) section of my local library. 

Synopsis (from IndieBound):

Alice likes playing soccer and working on her go-kart with her dad. Her bedroom is decorated with a baseball theme. But when she moves to the suburbs, she learns from the boy down the street that she has no hope of fitting in at her new middle school unless she starts acting more "like a girl." Zen seems kind of weird himself--how many boys read fashion magazines and dream of someday owning a spa? Alice learns that fitting in and being herself are two very different things--until she tries to fit in with people who like her for who she really is.

My Thoughts:

     While I liked the essence of this book I did not fall in love with the characters.  I found their actions to be slightly off-balance.  But then this a middle school read and I'm no longer in that category.
     Alice is happy to live in her new suburban neighborhood in a big, new house (which was purchased from her father's ebay sale of a book signed by JFK-for $60,000) but she hopes for some other kids nearby. Walking the 'hood one day, exploring with her backpack on she discovers Zen: 
"Are you running away already?"

Around the corner to the left of the stop sign, a big, bulky boy sat in a ratty lounge chair under the thick shade of an old tree. His hair was so blond it looked white. And it was unusually curly. He wore a hand-painted t-shirt and cut off jeans exposing the palest legs I had ever seen. In his right hand, he held a magazine, and in his left, a glass of lemonade with a bendy straw.
"Don't you like Hemlockless Trail?"
I stopped and stared, not sure if I should talk to him.
"Isn't it clever how the builders named the road after the very trees they cut down?"
I glanced back up the street, but I had no idea what a hemlock tree would look like.
"So didn't you people just move into your cookie-cutter chateau? Which one is yours?' (25)
And their rocky friendship begins.  They are total opposites as Zen helps her become (his idea) of a popular girl and she listens and accepts it all, giving up her tomboy image.   Alice is dumbfound by his lack of boy traits-she'd be happy with a boy for a best friend but this boy is not boyish at all!  Zen has his own standards and I do like his comments about Hemlock (less) Trail and cookie-cutter houses so he does have a sense of humor.  He likes to crimp hair and read fashion magazines but he also does some snarky things behind Alice's back.  He could be Alice's gay best friend but it doesn't end up that way as once Alice is in school and in with the crowd she ignores Zen.   Ultimately this is a book about following your own path and staying true to yourself and while I got the message but my feelings were mixed.

     I did like Atkinson's writing style and would try another book written by her.
  2.5/5 stars
Other compelling  reviews:

Literate Lives
Kiss The Book

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1 comment:

Jenners said... seems like it was a neat premise that almost seemed to betray itself in the telling. What a shame.