Book Review #62: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti

Monday, 7 September 2015
Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Simon and Schuster.  I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review.

Title: Zeroes
Author: Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Format: Paperback
Publication Date: September 24th 2015
Pages: 546
SourceReview Copy from Publisher
PurchaseThe Book Depository / Waterstones

Don't call them heroes. But these six Californian teens have powers that set them apart.

Ethan aka Scam has a voice inside him that'll say whatever people want to hear, whether it's true or not. Which is handy, except when it isn't - like when the voice starts gabbing in the middle of a bank robbery. The only people who can help are the other Zeroes, who aren't exactly best friends these days.

Enter Nate, aka Bellwether, the group's 'glorious leader.' After Scam's SOS, he pulls the scattered Zeroes back together. But when the rescue blows up in their faces, the Zeroes find themselves propelled into whirlwind encounters with ever more dangerous criminals. At the heart of the chaos they find Kelsie, who can take a crowd in the palm of her hand and tame it or let it loose as she pleases.

Filled with high-stakes action and drama, Zeroes unites three powerhouse authors for the opening installment of a thrilling new series.

Pitched as a book about superhero teens that didn't make the official cut like Superman and Wonderwoman, this book was definitely something I was extremely interested! It had such an interesting concept and overall premise, that I literally couldn't wait to dive into. So what did I think of it? Did it live up to all of it's anticipation?

Well this novel was very different from what I expected! However that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. Zeroes tells the tale of a set of teenagers that have various superhuman abilities. A year ago, Scam's power of 'The Voice' took over and said some things that he would later regret. Now the group has been spread about and they haven't spoken in a year. So when 'The Voice' gets Scam caught up in a robbery and being questioned in a police station, the gang regroups and their journey begins. Now obviously there is the main overarching plot of the robbery and then the developments made from that, but as all of the characters aren't together in the beginning of the novel, there are separate sub plots for each character and they were slowly interweaved in with the main story arc. I think this worked really effectively and I enjoyed reading about how each of the characters were developing from the beginning of the novel. 

Pacing wise I found the beginning of this novel to be incredibly fast going. I found myself to be drawn into the story really easily and to be immersed in the world of these very peculiar characters. The middle of the story for me was just okay pace wise. I would strongly compare it to cruising along at bare minimum speed. Enough to keep the reader entertained but not quite enough that I was speeding through the pages quicker than I could count. The ending for me however was adrenaline pumping and extremely intense. The actual ending was sad but I kind of saw it coming from a long way off. It's a shame that it was a little bit predictable. I would have liked to have seen such a dynamic scene being suddenly given to the reader, leaving them shocked and in awe at the writing because there was definitely potential for that here! I also feel this could have really enhanced the growth of one of the characters in particular. It would have been extremely interesting to have seen it done this way, but as this is the first novel in a series, perhaps we'll see more dramatics and artistic flare in the sequels.

This was a very character driven novel and we focused a lot on the development of characters to move the plot along. We were introduced to a wide variety of characters in this novel and their various powers that came along with them, however my favourites had to be Flicker, Anon and Crash. I found each of their characters extremely likeable and relatable, and frankly I think they also had the coolest abilities. But looking past the abilities, it was more the passion behind the writing for these characters that made them loveable for me. You could definitely tell reading the perspectives of these characters that the authors that wrote them were exerting a large amount of passion. Each character developed beautifully as the novel went along and I found myself being drawn to their chapters every time they came along, often hoping they'd appear more frequently than some of the other points of view. I strongly believe that another reason I found them to be extremely intriguing was because we seemed to get that little bit extra backstory with these characters. Preferably I would have liked more of an in depth history and focus on Bellwether and Mob's powers because they were very peculiar and intrinsic, but I felt there wasn't enough explanation as to what exactly they were and how they worked. This felt slightly inconsistent in comparison to some of the other characters that I really enjoyed. 

In this novel there were romantic elements brewing between some of the characters, more particularly Flicker and Anon. I found them to be incredibly cute and I totally was routing for them as the novel developed. The relationship wasn't instalove (thank goodness) which meant there was definitely opportunity for the authors to flesh out the romance over the entire book, which they did to full advantage. I really appreciated the genuine care in the way they felt about each other. I've read too many books recently where the romantic elements have always being focused about appearance. In this novel there was definitely non of that aspect in this relationship and it was something that I found both extremely refreshing and beautiful all at the same time. Definitely more of this type of relationship in YA please! Whilst romantic flares were developing in this novel, we also saw the independent growth of characters, specifically Crash. Coming to terms with the struggles of her ability, we really saw the author's ability to create compassion for this character as we saw her independence flourish as the novel progressed. 

As this novel is written by three different authors, you could tell when the author's changed as there was some inconsistency in the writing styles. I could tell when reading that I definitely preferred certain character's POV's over the others and that wasn't just down to their characteristics, but the way they were written. They just didn't seem to be as dynamic and interesting as the others and I purely put this down to the lack of excitement in the writing style. Now I don't know who wrote which characters, but I definitely found this to be a feature that brought down the novel slightly for me.

The one thing that confused me in this novel was the lack of understanding about just how the Zeroes obtained their powers. I was hoping for a conclusion that was going to be just as dramatic as the actual one, but that explained something or left a cliffhanger explaining how/why they have their gifts. When reading this book we as the reader just have to assume that the characters have always had their gifts. There isn't anything explaining that something special happened to give them this abilities, but then neither is there a line to explain they were born with them. It was all very peculiar, and whilst I appreciate that this might be a plot device for further novels, I would have liked to have seen just some indication to it in this first book as I felt that would have really hooked in the reader.

Overall this book was pretty alright for me. I would definitely invest in the rest of the series because not only is it from authors I enjoy reading from, but it's also made me feel compassion for the characters - I want to see more from them. Especially Flicker, Anon and Crash because those were definitely my favourites. This novel is definitely to stand on it's own to feet as a stand alone, however I strongly feel that elements could have been included that explain more into the origins of these abilities. I award Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti a 3 out of 5 star rating on my classification scale. I do recommend this book to others who are interested in teenagers with intriguing abilities. I look forward to seeing just exactly how this overall story arc develops from here in the sequels!

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