I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati
Published by Delacorte Press on October 11th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: ARC from NetGalley
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Seventeen-year-old Cath knows Zero is coming for her. Zero, the devastating depression born of Catherine’s bipolar disease, has almost triumphed once, propelling Catherine to her first suicide attempt. With Zero only temporarily restrained by the latest med du jour, time is running out. In an old ballet shoebox, Catherine stockpiles meds, preparing to take her own life when Zero next arrives.
But Zero’s return is delayed. Unexpected relationships along with the care of a new psychiatrist start to alter Catherine's perception of her diagnosis. But will this be enough? This is a story of loss and grief and hope and how the many shapes of love – maternal, romantic and platonic – impact a young woman’s struggle with mental illness.
The manuscript was awarded the 2014 SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant in the Contemporary YA category, named a finalist in the 2015 Tassey-Walden Awards and won the Serendipity Literary Agency 2013 YA First Page/Novel Discovery Contest.
I’ve been reading a lot of books featuring teens with mental illness and physical disabilities lately for a paper I’m working on about the topic, so the offer to join this blog tour totally piqued my interest. My writing partner and I have been in and out of this paper for about 3 years, so we’ve watched many books come and go from the list of upcoming titles post–The Fault In Our Stars. Right around 2015 we noticed a sharp turn towards a lot of novels that offer really interesting and nuanced explorations of these issues. I’m excited to say that The Weight of Zero continues on this trend — I thoroughly enjoyed this book!
Now, obviously books like this one aren’t “fun action-packed” reads. This contemporary story is one of beautiful writing and vivid depictions of the world inside the protagonist, Catherine’s, mind. This world is not all anger, or whirlwind love, or didactic after-school special preachiness. This is a story about a girl experiencing a very dark place inside a very realistic world. Though many of her friends have deserted her, she finds new friends through her support group. Catherine has a plan for suicide, but she also has a courage and social network that stand by her in these difficult times.
One of my favorite parts of the book was the use of “Zero” as a tangible representation of the depression Cath feels. Cath is aware that her condition is hereditary and will be a lifelong battle, but this externalization of allows Cath to gain some objectivity while she considers how this diagnosis affects her life. She’s obviously not perfect with this and has her ups and downs, but I left the novel overall feeling hopeful about the possibilities of living with and managing frightening mental illnesses. This is in stark contrast to other novels I’ve read in this subgenre that, in their attempts to craft emotional and dramatic stories, leave one feeling like mental illnesses are literal death sentences or tickets to a life of misery. That simply isn’t the case, and I am thankful to Fortunai for writing a story that paints a much more realistic take on surviving bipolar depression.
FINAL GRADE: B
Of all the books I’ve read on this subject recently, this one has been the most pleasant surprise so far. Though it doesn’t quite hit the incredible writing and layers found in Challenger Deep, I do feel this is an important and engaging novel that will appeal to actual teens and awards committees alike. I highly recommend The Weight of Zero for those who like weighty topics and contemporary realistic fiction that isn’t boring!