14 of 16
In Zanesville
304 pages; Little, Brown and Company
"Everyone is somewhere else," declares the 14-year-old narrator of Jo Ann Beard's In Zanesville (Little, Brown). She's not just talking about the goings-on in her hometown (which her best friend, Flea, calls Insanesville); she's talking emotional displacement, too, as she attempts to navigate the tenuous territory between the weight of her parents' generation and what are supposed to be the most exciting years of her life. It's the 1970s, and the world is changing; everything she once took for granted begins to fall apart. Seriously, who would've thought she'd find herself estranged from Flea and schmoozing with the cheerleaders? Despite the unsettling and intriguing nature of this turn of events, our nameless narrator finds solace in Shakespeare—"'Tis new to thee"—and resolves to look forward. Masterfully wrought, in such a way as to make an oft-told tale feel new, this novel is at times downright hilarious and often hold-your-breath-and-hope-for-the-best suspenseful. The restraint with which Beard deploys moments of tension and humor makes each page glimmer like the frozen cornfields at dusk in which the narrator wanders and thinks, "We're on the moon out here, except the moon is up there."
— Samuel Reaves Slaton