Zero O’Clock

Akashic/Black Sheep. Sept. 2021. 288p. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781617759758.
Gr 8 Up–Sixteen-year-old Geth Montego already had her world upended when her father died three years ago in a school shooting, and now it’s happening again as COVID-19 takes over America. Geth loves Broadway and BTS, has two close friends, and is eagerly awaiting her college acceptance letters, but readers will be waiting to see how 2020 unfolds for the teen and her friends. A confrontation with the cops puts Geth in the center of the Black Lives Matter movement in her community, pushing her already fraught coming-of-age story into the limelight. Geth’s voice carries the novel through our unprecedented recent history as she navigates grief, anger, and her own mental illnesses of anxiety, depression, and OCD during the stay-at-home orders and rising pandemic death toll. Her narration comes at the cost of some heavy exposition, which Farley breaks up epistolary-style with news reports, texts, emails, and even school essays. This novel juggles police violence, social justice, college stress, mental illness, friendship, romance, and the pandemic. A few of those topics get dropped before the finish line, but Geth’s sense of humor helps smooth things over as they relive 2020 with her. Geth is Black, her best friends are Jewish Korean and Cuban American, and her mother’s boyfriend is white.
VERDICT While the novel doesn’t deliver on all fronts, it could find a home with collections looking for quarantine fiction right now. An additional purchase.

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