Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Saving Zoe (2007)

By: Alyson Noel

Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Drama

Brainy and shy, fifteen-year-old Echo is entering high school and beginning to navigate the ups and downs of being a teenager. However, she is also dealing with something few of her classmates will ever have to: the grisly murder of her older sister Zoe. When Zoe’s boyfriend Marc gives Echo Zoe’s diary, she discovers who her sister really was and gets to know the real Zoe.

This novel was rather disappointing to me. From the description on the back of the book, I gathered that Echo and Marc would be using the diary to solve Zoe’s murder which wasn’t the case at all. Zoe’s murderer is known from the beginning and is already sitting in jail awaiting trial. The murder itself is brushed over as some insignificant detail – we never really find out how Zoe was killed or the name of the killer. I would have thought that Echo would be carrying a large amount of hatred for the man that ripped her sister away from her, but he is hardly mentioned at all. 

This is strictly the story of how Echo comes to terms with her own thoughts and feelings about Zoe. I got the feeling that Echo was always living in her sister’s shadow because Zoe was the pretty, bubbly, popular one who always had friends and boys around her. Echo was the quiet, brainy one who did well in school, never caused trouble, and often spent time with her parents. After Zoe’s death, it seems like the light of her parents’ lives has gone out and all they are left with is Echo. I really wish Noel would have delved more into the psychological effects Zoe’s death had upon the family. I think that would have made a far more interesting story.

Once Echo begins to read Zoe’s diary, it is almost as if she wants to become Zoe – someone who honestly doesn’t seem like anyone to admire. Zoe cheated on her boyfriends, smoked weed, tried other drugs, had lots of sex, drank alcohol and posted skanky pictures of herself on the internet. She had an attitude problem and seemed to think her looks were everything. She dreamed of being an actress and model and idolized reality television stars. Zoe is everything I can’t stand about my generation.

The book is probably thirty to fifty percent excerpts from Zoe’s diary, most of which include her prattling on about inane things. The plot finally becomes interesting around chapter 30 when the events leading up to the murder unfold and Zoe makes a startling revelation about someone Echo knows. I wish this plot point had come up earlier in the novel because it was the best part of the entire story and actually had me wondering what Echo was going to do about it.

Echo and her sister are both annoying characters that make awful decisions that put them in harm’s way. When I wasn’t getting irritated with their foolish choices, I was groaning at the lack of vocabulary these girls seem to have. Apparently, in Noel’s eyes, all teenage girls talk like the stereotypical dumb cheerleader: “Like, totally!” The word “totally” is over-used, to the point where I wanted to find the author and slap her upside the head. Use a different adverb already! “I was totally shaking,” “I was so totally angry,” We get it! Even Echo, who is supposedly a bookworm, speaks this way. Maybe its a Southern California thing (the author lives there), but when I was the age of the characters in the novel I never talked like that and didn’t know a single person that did. I also went to high school around the same time this book was published. The poor vocabulary skills of these characters were so grating on my nerves and it reflects negatively on the author. Though, to be honest, I don’t think she is a very good writer in general.

In the end, I felt that the book was rather pointless. Nothing was really resolved, the grief of the characters still left very much unexplored, and the characters not developing at all.

Overall – the story had potential but it was bogged down by unlikeable characters and a very constricted “Valley Girl” vocabulary. It almost redeemed itself around chapter 30, but it was so close to the end of the book that it made little difference. Also, I wish it would have spent more time on the murder and how it affected the family. Considering the plotline, this novel could have been much better.


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