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In Zanesville

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  3,209 ratings  ·  605 reviews
The beguiling fourteen-year-old narrator of IN ZANESVILLE is a late bloomer. She is used to flying under the radar-a sidekick, a third wheel, a marching band dropout, a disastrous babysitter, the kind of girl whose Eureka moment is the discovery that "fudge" can't be said with an English accent.

Luckily, she has a best friend, a similarly undiscovered girl with whom she sha
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Published April 25th 2011 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2011)
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One of my Facebook pals is a school librarian, so her postings are pithier than some I could mention, that is, she doesn't share glorified chain letters, urban legends masquerading as real events, nor quotes attributed to the wrong people. A couple of months ago, she posted a link to a Publishers' Weekly item entitled "The Top 10 Essays Since 1950".

I had a look and the one that really got under my skin was by Jo Ann Beard, a description of a day no one should have involving a dying pet, a dead r
Despite the age of the narrator, this book seems less a book for teenagers and more of a novel for the 14 year old in all of us. Set in the 1970s, In Zanesville perfectly captures (in hilarious detail) that awkward push-and-pull time between being a kid and becoming a full blown teenager. From the first paragraph about an ill-fated turn at babysitting a local family of hoodlums, the writing is smart and funny, and makes you wish you were friends with the narrator and her best friend Felicia (aka ...more
This book starts out like a house on fire---really. The first chapter begins with the 14 yr old narrator (who is never named by the author) and her best friend babysitting an unruly group of siblings when one of the children sets the bathroom trash can on fire. Felicia ("Flea") and her friend panic and respond to the smoke by herding all the kids outside, and then by removing all the animals (snakes, Tarantulas, mice)to the front lawn. Then they decide whose mother to call because mothers are th ...more
Emma Bolden

Though I have to admit I wonder a lot about why Beard called this a novel: the characters are clearly the people from The Boys of My Youth. I've read a lot on-line about her "unnamed" narrator, but, at one point, she pretty clearly states that her name is Jo (when she's talking about Little Women, she says one of the characters has her name and she's the one who shows up for another book -- wh
Kate Woods Walker
Pitch-perfect evocation of adolescence, with language that is both stark and dreamy, In Zanesville paints a hurts-so-good landscape of lower middle class life and family relationships. Jo Ann Beard's young heroine displays both casual corruption and embarrassed nobility in her journey toward maturity and an uncertain future.

From the startling, smoky beginning scene to the introduction of a bowl of malted milk balls, the plot and setting zig just when you expect them to zag, and delightfully so.
Jo Ann Beard writes beautifuly and her observations about family dynamics and being a teenager are impeccable. In Zanesville: A Novel is a must read for a few of the lines alone. She describes the oldest son (and terror) of her last babysitting job as follows: "We've always thought of Derek as a large, overbearing kid who shouts out words we've only seen in spray paint." That just rocks.

I would have loved to give this book five stars, but I couldn't bring myself to do it because, and I hate bein
As a kid who did most of their crucial growing up in the dire time of the late eighties and early nineties, I've always felt a tremendous nostalgia for all things that came out of the late seventies. As anyone who does know me is already painfully aware, I've basically spent my whole life wanting to be Parker Posey's character in "Dazed and Confused".

So needless to say, Jo Ann Beard got me at the detailed list of clothing the nameless fourteen year old narrator and her friend Felicia put on laya
Jo Ann Beard's debut novel In Zanesville landed in my lap during just the right fit of nostalgia.

The previous night I'd watched the teen-aged girl next door waiting to get picked up by a carload of friends. She and her mom and her mom's boyfriend had all busted out of the house with this contagious giddy Friday fever. The girl needed a couple flashlights. Her mom gave her one, she clicked it on and off, made swirls of light. Her mom's boyfriend went to his truck to get another.

"Don't lose it," h
The narrator's voice is strong and distinct in this coming of age story set in the 70's. She is about the same age as I was at the time the novel is set and the details about what the world was like (particularly the world of early adolescence) at that time are painfully accurate.

This is a solid 3.5 based on these two things alone, there just really is not much of a story. Jo (maybe, you aren't ever completely sure if that is her name) tells the tales of friendship, family, growing up and leavin
Started out very strong, but petered out early. It's a very quick read, so I stuck with it to see how it would play out. Generally disappointing after such a big build-up -- great review by the usually reliable Chicago Tribune critic and something via Facebook (NPR or Huffington Post), plus jacket blurbs by authors I respect. I couldn't connect strongly enough with the narrator of this book and the lingering threat of animal violence/grave misfortune (sick, stray cats, myriad dogs tied outside a ...more
Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
In Zanesville is a coming-of-age story about an unnamed fourteen-year old protagonist who revels in being a sidekick. She stays with an over-stressed mother, a drunk father, an annoying elder sister and a helpful younger brother. Our protagonist and Felicia (or Flea, as she is sometimes known) are best friends who know each other really well, and they frequently sleepover at each others place. Felicia isn't too popular either, though relatively, she is. When the pair are together, people look at ...more
Jody Kihara
This book was good but NOT worth the hype it's been receiving. I find it interesting that a novel with a 14 year-old protagonist and very much about friends, boys, and school, got such glowing reviews. Why is this? Well, my theory is that because this is being marketed to adults rather than teens, it's playing on the reminiscent/sentimental vibe; whereas if you gave this book to a teenager, they'd likely find it boring. Given how much YA I read, I can safely say there are SO MANY better teenage- ...more
This was my 23rd book for the YALSA's Best Books Reading Challenge. This was one of the Alex Awards...which is a book published for adults that young adults would enjoy reading.

This was a tough one for me to get through. And I fell asleep reading it multiple times. This could in part be due to the fact that I had just gotten home from vacation. But also because I just couldn't get into this book.

It starts off when the 14-year-old narrator and her friend are babysitting some kids who set the hous
I would probably read the ingredient list on a cake mix box if it was written by Jo Ann Beard - yeah, she's that good. That said, the 14 year old narrator of this fiction didn't ring true for me - what would ring true is the narrator at 40 looking backwards and interpreting how she felt at 14. By definition, middle school girls are coltish, painfully self-conscious and wear their hearts on the outside like bloody valentines but introspective? No. Oh wait, I've left out that huge percentage of 14 ...more
I really, really liked this book. Some reviewers seemed not to like it because they were expected a YA novel and it doesn't read as YA. And it really doesn't, but it read extremely well. Even if you weren't in high school in the 70s, this book may feel nostalgic for you because the writing is so wonderful. I actually laughed aloud at times and at other times was moved to near tears. Everyone is written so well and I agree with the blurb on the back; these are girls I would have counted myself lu ...more
Darlin' Neal
I love this narrator, the way this book moves, the characters. It's beautifully done. One of my favorite Coming of Age novels ever.
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn is my new benchmark for coming-of-age novels; I feel like I am a better teacher, reader, and person because of that book. Jo Ann Beard's 2007 novel, In Zanesville, has many of the same qualities--a steady, almost meandering pace, a beautifully rendered family life, and unique insights into the protagonist's thoughts--and I often thought about Francie as I was reading. This is certainly a satisfying and enriching summer read.

First off, the writing is that of a true stylis
I have never read a book that took me back to my young teenage years as this one did. Jo Ann Beard captures the unfamiliar emotions of passing from girlhood into early teenage hood with real insight and ease. I was this girl, our wonderful narrator, who sees herself as a 'sidekick', doesn't think she's pretty, but has nice hair.
From the opening pages I was swept into Zanesville. A small town where people's lives are a bit hidden, but as in all small towns, known as well, making it difficult to h
Nov 19, 2013 Lizzie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lizzie by: Sara
This was recommended by Sara. VERY STRONGLY!

Fiiiiiive stars? Yeah, okay. This is partly because… I just want more people to pay attention to this book, and this writer. Please.

I will also say this right off the bat, to get a few people's attention, which is, RIYL: Lynda Barry. These girls, they are Lynda Barry's spiritual children, they are full-flesh neighbors of Arna and Marlys and everyone. Wrong and awkward and hurting and mistaken, and silly. Carrying on with their stuff while the hard and
Aaron Dev
The story revolves around a girl entering her 9nth grade in just another American town. With a dysfunctional family and a negative view of herself, this premise doesn't offer many surprises. The reason to read this - in my opinion - would be to pursue the language of its author. Her previous publication, a collection of essays entitled 'The Boys of My Youth' (the title of the last essay amongst them) was a superb feat.

While the book's opening pages are very engaging, its the best part in terms o
Growing up is hard. It's even harder when you're a fourteen-year-old girl who doesn't really fit in anywhere. The narrator of In Zanesville is totally comfortable to be flying under the radar, to act a sidekick to her best friend Felicia, with whom she manages to get in a fair amount of trouble. Her home life is chaos, with an alcoholic father, a chain-smoking mother, an older sister who torments her, and a little brother who just wants to be loved. Yet when the rules are broken just enough to c ...more
In Zanesville starts out great but then falls apart. The story follows a 14-year-old girl (who, in a particularly twee rhetorical device, remains unnamed until late in the book) and her best friend Felicia from the summer before 9th-grade until mid-winter of the school year. There's no plot to speak of; this is a coming-of-age novel, but one that becomes less convincing as you get further into it.

In the first half or so, the narrator's perspective and observations come across as alternately chi
This one was a little disapointing. I thought it would be better, but no luck. I like a book with a clear beginning and end and this one just didn't have that. The author jumped right in before you knew anything about the characters, and the ending wasn't satisfying at all. It just.....ended....with no real resolution of the issues in the book. Also, the beginning was a little disturbing. It opens with two teenage best friends babysitting for a family with five kids. The oldest boy starts a fire ...more
Everyday eBook
Aug 06, 2012 Everyday eBook rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Everyday by: John Abrahams
Nothing spectacular happens in Jo Ann Beard's debut novel, In Zanesville. There is no murder, no car crash, no divorce, no vampire, and no lightning strike. Rather, we get an unnamed ninth-grade narrator, on the border between being a kid and being a teenager, dealing with all the mundane aspects of a dysfunctional family amid small-town American life in the 1970s. And -- song screeches to a halt -- this is where this funny, awkward book reminds us to give thanks, every day, that we don't have t ...more
I loved everything about this book.

I’m a big fan of good young adult fiction for its sense of self-centeredness, desperation, and hope. I’m also a big fan of good adult adult fiction for its bleakness, meditativeness, humor, and realism. This book is the best of both of my favorite fictional worlds. Jo Ann Beard moves seamlessly through adolescent junior high school scenes and dialogue to the adult meditations of her narrator, combining both the more tactile aspects of young adult fiction and t
John Beck

Jo Ann Beard's In Zanesville owned my soul this past weekend. Her unnamed narrator, a 14 year old girl, is staggering through a life on the brink of collapse. And Beard's debut novel will haunt and encourage you long after you've put it back on the top shelf of your bookcase.

In Zanesville opens with a simple, horrifying scene: the narrator and her best friend, Felicia (called Flea), are babysitting a family of chi
Chris Blocker
My first run in with Jo Ann Beard was enjoyable. It was like taking a cruise down the old streets and reminiscing a summer of my life. In Zanesville is set in a place I've never been, during a time before I was even born, but Beard's ability to get in the mind of these fourteen year olds was so familiar. With an uncanny ability to recall those years most of us have pushed from our memory, Beard nails not only the actions, but the irrational thoughts of these young teenagers. Beard successfully u ...more
Teen fiction----which I am a sucker for----at its finest. The protagonist is a young girl growing up in a small town in Illinois in the 1970s. How could I resist, huh? The whole adolescent angst is there: the intensity of those hormonal drives which made you alternately hate and/or love every person you knew with a supreme intensity; the thought that your dinky little town was the whole universe; the belief that parents held all the power and were totally ignorant tyrants; the wide-eyed innocenc ...more
4.5 stars, but 5 if you go by the sheer pleasure I got from reading this masterful novel. The details are so incredibly evocative and so true to life--I've never seen adolescence rendered so well. The sense of urgency never leaves, and more importantly, it feels as legitimate to us as it does to the narrator (named Jo Ann???). The crises of young teenagers could so easily feel trivial or boring or irritating to an adult reader, but that's never the case in this book. In fact, the plot points of ...more
1970s coming-of-age story about a 14 year old girl living in a small Midwestern town. The narrator (who shall remain nameless) has a fantastic voice. She is funny and irreverent and clever (example: she refers to someone as “a boy with the ruinous name Milton”). Her best friend Felicia, aka Flea, is also perfectly portrayed and I also thoroughly enjoyed the 1970s mom archetype our narrator is forced to live with. Ultimately, though, despite the strength of the narrator’s personality, there just ...more
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Jo Ann Beard is the author of a collection of autobiographical essays, The Boys of My Youth. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, Best American Essays, and other magazines and anthologies. She received a Whiting Foundation Award and nonfiction fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts.
More about Jo Ann Beard...
The Boys of My Youth The Fourth State of Matter Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: Work from 1970 to the Present

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“...within the souls of the awkward and the overlooked often burns something radiant.” 10 likes
“In the dresser mirror, my face looks the same, but I feel something happening around me, some change as palpable as weather. Stuck in the mirror are mementos from my childhood—red and yellow ribbons for various underachievements, a brown corsage from grad school graduation, a curling and faded picture of me petting a deer in Wisconsin—which is now over. I wandered through it and came out the other side.

It’s a stark feeling. Like getting to the last page of a book and seeing ‘The End.’ Even if you didn’t like the story that much, or your childhood, you read it, you lived it. And now it’s over, book closed, that long-ago deer you petted in the Dells as dead as the one in The Yearling.”
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