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Zonked Out

Transitioning from childhood to adolescence is never easy, and each person weathers the process differently. For fourteen-year-old Anna Wiley, fourteen is not everything she desired. Her friends have all sprouted curves and confidence, and Anna is stuck somewhere else, trying to determine where she fits in even as her cynicism is clouding her observations of the world. When her mysterious and unusual grandfather Nicholas comes to town unannounced, Anna is forced to face the demons she has been avoiding while working to understand where the line between fact and fiction truly lies. Over the course of a fate-filled fortnight, Anna discovers a powerful inner strength that she can tap into anytime her world becomes more intense than she desires.

This intriguing young adult story addresses many of the challenges young people face as their bodies and minds shed their youth and begin the inevitable transition to adulthood. Anna begins the story as a moody and uninspired teenager who has decided to forego homework in direct response to what she regards as the brainless, machine-like society surrounding her. With each passing day, however, events take place that make Anna question her inner monologue and help her shift her beliefs and trajectory to better aim toward a successful future. She discovers that, though she sometimes feels alone in her struggles, even the most successful people have bad days, months, or years, and they require great strength of will to navigate their way back into the light.

Though this book is somewhat slow to start, the writing is good and the overall message is one that will keep readers thinking long after it ends. One particularly poignant quote describes growing up in this way, “when you conquer the Peter Pan inside, you kill your Santa Claus.” Youth is a wonderful, carefree time, but it is common for children to ache for the independence that comes with age; however, with reality comes the loss of belief, and that can set youth down a difficult path. Magic realism combines with a profound reflection of life’s many challenges in this thought-provoking story, and readers aged fourteen and older will connect with its intent. At the end, readers will find a list of suggested questions for book clubs to consider along with a selection of important resources for teen readers. This is a unique contribution to the canon of literature for young adult readers.

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