YA Contemporary (+touch of magic)
Review copy obtained via NetGalley.
Being a math genius is not exactly a ticket to popularity for seventeen-year-old Eva. Even worse, whenever she touches another person or their belongings, she gets glimpses of their emotions, secrets and insecurities, making her keep her distance from everyone. So when Eva realizes she can touch Zenn, a handsome and soulful artist, without getting visions–only sparks–she finds herself drawing closer to him.
(In the publisher’s summary, there’s another sentence there to build suspense. I think it hints too much and I am vehemently against spoilers, so I took it out. It’s a book. Books have to have conflict. I’m just not telling you what the conflict’s about.)
I don’t read a lot of contemporary YA. I’m in the limbo age where teenage me seems cringey and painful, not nostalgic. And I initially struggled with Eva a bit, with her snobbishness about makeup and her blatant disdain for other teenagers.
But I was JUST LIKE THAT. I’m sort of still like that in some ways. So while it’s hard to read, it’s a sure sign that the author captured a real character.
And Zenn Diagram is everything I want out of a YA contemporary. It’s sweet and smart and full of stupidly hilarious puns. The plot is deeper than it initially seems, and the characters develop in satisfactory but not overly dramatic ways. All a success.
It also includes the fantastical element of Eva’s power, which is pretty well blended into an otherwise ordinary modern world. I find that I’m appreciating this sort of magical realism more and more. I’ve seen a few reviews where people had trouble with that genre blending, but just keep an open mind and you should be fine.
I do have one minor peeve with the book and that’s the portrayal of Eva as a pastor’s daughter. Really, to be fair, it’s a much better portrayal than most in fiction. Usually, authors are too far off the charts to one extreme or the other. Either a pastor’s kid is laughably religious and out of touch or he/she is basically a normal kid who has rejected the illogical grasp of organized religion and swears, drinks, and has sex like an average teenager.
Eva is closer to the middle, albeit a bit too obviously in the “rejects organized religion” camp for my comfort. And by “obviously” I don’t mean explicitly. I just mean that it’s presented as almost an assumption, as if she could not be anything else. In fairness to the author, this is more a complaint about the general state of YA literature than it is her specific book. More (or more varied) portrayals of religious teenagers, please!
Zenn Diagram is a sweet and practically perfect contemporary YA. If you like that kind of thing, you should read it. (The Kindle book is less than $4!)