Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Me on Blues for Zoey

Title: Blues for Zoey
Author: Robert Paul Weston
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Razorbill Canada (Penguin Canada imprint)

Kaz Barrett isn't saving for college. Every penny he earns working at the sketchy Sit'N'Spin Laundromat is for his mother. He plans to send her to a top-notch (and very expensive) sleep clinic in New York. His mother suffers from an extremely rare neurological disorder that causes her to fall asleep for days at a time. Both he and his kid sister, Nomi, worry that one day, maybe tomorrow, their mother will fall asleep and never wake up. At the start of summer, everything seems on track. Come September, Kaz will have earned all he needs and more. However, when anarchic, pink-haired Zoey walks past the laundromat's window, Kaz's ordered life begins spinning out of control. Smart, mysterious, and full of music, Zoey is unlike anyone Kaz has met, but there's another side to her that he can’t quite figure out. When he goes looking for answers, he finds a whirlwind of lies, half-truths, and violence. And in the eye of the storm, he'll discover that you really can't con an honest man.

Blues for Zoey is a window into what becomes a complicated summer. This book is honest and real, at times harsh and painful, but that's life, as Kaz knows and learns. Different characters, different motives, different ways of life, they all come together here in this one glimpse into one teen's life to tell an amazing story.

Kaz is quite possibly the nicest guy going through the hardest time. He's trying to keep it all together, raise the money for his mom to go to an expensive clinic. He's putting family first while still making time for his friends. He's rather average, to tell you the truth. Sure he drinks at parties, sure he let his grades slip, but it's not like he's selling drugs or stealing cars. He's working hard for the money for his mom's treatment. Doing the right, honest thing.. But then comes Zoey, then she walks past, and she's like a magnet for his eyes and good-guy sensibilities.

What highlights Kaz's honesty and personality is the author's writing. Between the covers of this book is prose that reveals a narrator without guile, without artifice. I'm not saying Kaz would give anyone the shirt off his back if they asked for it, but when he gets involved in something and starts to care, starts to want to help, he'll do anything. Which I think is why he's first attracted to Zoey. She's so bizarre, so different, and looking like she needs a hand. So he offers it. But life is like a seesaw. We go up when we try to help and we get knocked right back down when someone lies.

As much as the book is about Kaz, it also seems to be about truth and lies. What we know as true, what we think is true, and how we know someone is lying to us. It makes the world a minefield at times too dangerous to cross, especially for a guy like Kaz. He's not an idiot, and it's not that he blindly trusts everyone he meets. He just doesn't see why some people would lie about certain things. He's a good guy, working hard, trying to figure out the world, and it's unfortunate that he ends up in a sticky and slightly dangerous situation.

This book screams Canadian literature. Maybe it's not set in Canada, what with the mention of $1 bills, but it feels so Canadian. The downtown city setting, the different personalities making up a vast cast of characters, the melting pot of culture, race, and ethnicity, the journey/struggle of one man trying to understand life. As we go through life we encounter the moments that make us who we are, the moments that define us, teach us, show us the truth about the world. Here are some of Kaz's moments.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Penguin Canada.)

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