Reading/Interest Level: Young Adult
Author: Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti
Publisher: Simon Pulse
The “Zeroes” are acutely aware that having superpowers doesn’t make you a hero; in fact, those powers can kind of suck. Six teens born in 2000 carry powers with incredible costs: Crash itches to destroy technology, Flicker can see through other people’s eyes but not her own, Anonymous is so forgettable even his family can’t remember him, Bellwether can focus the energy of a group on one goal, and Scam’s voice will tell people whatever the want to hear - even if it’s a lie. Scam is the source of friction in the group, and it’s his loudmouth during a bank robbery that changes their practice missions to a real struggle against thugs, drug dealers, and Russian gang members. As they work to rescue Scam, the group recruits Mob, a girl whose power is to influence the emotions of a crowd. The six are able to save Scam and rediscover their strengths as a team, despite the casualties, explosions, and mistakes along the way.
Westerfeld, Langan, and Biancotti do an excellent job of bringing the idea of an imperfect superhero to life. Zeroes has a very modern tone, characterization, and setting. The struggles with drugs, technology, crime, poverty, and partying that urban millennials face are integral to the plot and frankly addressed. Unlike the oft-criticized Hollywood interpretations of superheroes, the Zeroes are a diverse group and their different cultural backgrounds bring strength. The message of forgiveness and teamwork is sound. However, the characters can be so flawed that they become unlikeable and difficult to empathize with. Additionally, the crises they face are repetitive and a little predictable. Zeroes is a fun, action-packed read that would be most appealing to older teens, especially reluctant readers.
*Contains mild violence, moderate language and sexual content.