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Dear Zoe

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  1,024 ratings  ·  142 reviews
Philip Beard’s stunning debut novel is fifteen-year-old Tess DeNunzio’s letter to her sister, Zoe, lost to a hit-and-run driver on a day when it seemed that nothing mattered but the tragedies playing out in New York and Washington.Dear Zoeis a remarkable study of grief, adolescence, and healing with a pitch-perfect narrator who is at once sharp and naïve, world- worried an ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published April 25th 2006 by Plume (first published February 21st 2004)
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Gold Star Award Winners
27th out of 96 books — 60 voters
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9/11 Related
58th out of 119 books — 144 voters

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Community Reviews

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This book wrecked me...I thought it was very original and the narrator will break your heart.
Dear Zoe is a letter, from Tess DeNunzio to her younger sister, who died in a hit-and-run accident on a day when the world’s attention was focused elsewhere, with no grief to spare for Zoe’s death, except in Tess’s family. On September Eleventh, 2001, Zoe died, leaving Tess and her family devastated. It’s certainly something we don’t think about, all the personal tragedies that played out on that day. When you hear the words ‘September Eleventh,’ you see the towers falling or the Pentagon smokin ...more
Rebecca Jones
I cried. Several times. I also had to check multiple times to make sure that this wasn't a true story. That this was written by a man. Not a teenage girl, or someone who remembers being that girl.

It was honest and authentic. It talked about the directly about nervous energy that comes after setting yourself free or beginning to. It talks about how external acceptance isn't enough. It explains and walks thrugh the process of inept grief. The denial, the frozenness. The secrets. The walls seperati
"Remember how I said nothing changes everything? I think I was wrong about that. I'm starting to think maybe everything changes everything. That we never know what's going to happen next and we're not even supposed to. Maybe "Z" is the shape of everyone's life.You're going along in what feels like a straight line, headed for one horizon, the only one as far as you know, and then something happens, maybe something good, maybe something terrible, or maybe just something like seeing a guy picking o ...more
When people say, September 11, 2001, everyone's mind goes to the tragic attack on America, but we all seem to forget that other's lives changed that day as well that had nothing to do with the events that unfolded that. Tess witnessed her little sister, Zoe, being hit and killed by a car outside thier home. This book is written as a letter from 15 year old Tess to Zoe. Zoe's death throw the family into a state of utter confusion- her step-father now works late into the night, her mother sleeps a ...more
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Me for

On September 11th, 2001, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in numerous acts of terrorism against the United States. Even now, five years later, people still ask the question, "Where were you on 9/11?" I remember watching, on that fateful day, news coverage that left me horrified, aghast, and haunted. Where was I on 9/11? At work, on a day that started out like any other and quickly turned into one that no one will ever forget.

If you asked Tess DeNunzio, the
i think this is one of my favorite books i have ever read in my life. philip beard's style of writing is beautiful, and i think it goes a lot deeper than most novels that appeal to teenagers (or at least me) do. i myself am around tess's age, and although a lot of people say that they "didn't think this portrayed a teenage girl well at all" i extremely disagree. it may just be me, but i was able to relate to tess on so many levels it actually felt like philip beard used me to make tess. how she ...more
"Maybe 'Z' is the shape of everyone's life," writes Philip Beard. "You're going along in what feels like a straight line, headed for one horizon, the only one as far as you know, and then something happens..."

But my zigs and zags were few in Philip Beard's slim novel, "Dear Zoe." On this level of writing, it's smooth sailing. Beard is a skilled writer, and his style is seamless enough that he accomplishes the very difficult writer's task - not only of crossing genders in this first person narra
Sep 07, 2008 Terry rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: teens and adults
Recommended to Terry by: a friend
Everyone remembers where they were on 9-11. In this novel,that's the day 15-year-old Tess's little sister was killed and Tess's world collapsed. As she tried to build a life after 9-11, Tess finds that grown-ups can't save you but love just might. The novel is gritty enough to avoid being sappy and real enough that you can feel what Tess feels.

More than 20 teenagers in my teen library reading group have read this book and LOVE it. Some have read it multiple times. Author Phil Beard even visited
This book all at once was heartbreaking, redemptive and healing. I read it in one sitting, not only because it's not a terribly long novel, but because it's so captivatingly honest, you can't put it down.

I want to especially applaud Mr. Beard for creating Tess in such a real, authentic way. How he was able to get into the mind and nuances of a 15 year old girl is beyond me, but he did so in such a way, that throughout the book, I kept thinking, "wow - he really gets who she is and what she's go
i really enjoyed listening to this book but:
1. it is sad;
2. it is even more sad when you grew up in pittsburgh and know all the places the author is talking about.

i listened to this on a cross-country flight and i was looking out the window and crying a lot of the time thinking about going to kennywood as a child and grocery shopping at the giant eagle.

anyways, i liked the narrator and the style of beard's writing. it's easy to listen to and a super-quick read.(like 5 or so hours on audiobook)
Erynne Dehler
"Dear Zoe" is about a fifteen year old teenage girl whose step-sister had died.The main character is named Tess. She has two step-sisters, named Zoe and Em. It all started on September 11, 2001; when Tess and Zoe were waiting outside of their house waiting for the bus to pick them up to go to school. Tess let her eyes off of her sister while they were on the sidewalk next to the road. Zoe ended up going into the streets and she got hit by a car. Tess does not like to talk about the accident
Sarah Lee
Dear Zoe, is a unique book. What drew me in was the preview in the inside cover. You quickly learn that this book is a long letter written by Tess to her younger sister Zoe, who was tragically killed on 9/11 by a hit-and-run driver. It’s through these letters that Tess finds herself and comes to terms with the accident.

As Tess goes through the grieving process, using distractions like a new job, marijuana, and boys, her unique voice kept me hooked till the end. Because the novel is written as a
Jess Baxter
Dear Zoe I such a powerful, moving book about death, it tackle those feelings we tend to push away because they're too hard to bear. I really love that it's told from the teenager point of view because there's a sense of innocence throughout the whole novel. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever lost a loved one, I think hearing Tess' story will give us the courage to remember that it's okay to cry and be upset about our lost ones.
I often had to remind myself that this book was not written by a teenage girl, but instead by an older man. The story of a family whos lives are turned upside down when an accident on Sept. 11th, 2001 is captivating. The accident is slowly revealed as the main character attempts to deal with her emotions, her guilt and her family that is falling apart. A great story and a quick read. I am looking forward to more from this author
Nov 14, 2010 Upstatemamma rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys a good cry
This book was very sad but very good. I cried several times while I read this book. It really made me feel for all of the characters and it had a unique sense of being able to capture the teenage thoughts and emotions without being critical or condescending. I got through this book in about three days. I really did not ever want to put it down. If I were not a mom who had to work I probably would have read it in one sitting.
May 02, 2015 Laura rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Carol Patterson
September 11, 2001 was a tragic day in U.S. history. Tess’ three-year-old sister Zoe died that day, just as countless others did. Many died in the terrorist attack, but others like Zoe died in other places where the magnitude of their death only devastated a family, not a nation. But each and every one are tragedies nonetheless.

In Dear Zoe, fifteen-year-old Tess begins to write a letter to the little sister who will never read it. She tells Zoe little things about her life that she may have told
Marieanne Fabiano
I've met Phillip Beard and enjoy him as much as his books. This was a wonderful story about a family who suffers a loss on September 11th, but not in the actual attacks. It's often hard to remember anything but what happened on that day, but this book brings to light the realities that life still was happening, even during that awful tragedy. Beautifully written - a real tug-at-your-heart story.
I loved this book! I laughed, I cried, I yelled in frustration, then I sobbed...but all the while I knew the worst part would be reading the last word and having the story end. The main character isn't perfect and certainly doesn't lead a perfect life, but there's something earthy about her that just makes you forgive her flaws and love her anyway.
This is a poignant coming of age story. It is the story of fifteen year old Tess, an ordinary girl growing up in Pittsburg whose life is forever changed due to a personal tragedy, her younger sister is killed in a car v. pedestrian accident, on the same day that the nation experiences a national tragedy, the 9-11 attacks. It is achingly sad and but often funny as Tess deals with not only her grief, but her family's response to the death, her biological father's lack of ambition and first love. T ...more
I've never understood why we review these books by telling what they're about especially when you can simply read the inside cover or the synopsis here on Goodreads! This book was very easy to read and often I found myself unable to stay away for extended periods of time. I had forgotten that a man wrote it; he did a wonderful job of capturing a girl's mind! This book is told in letter form to the younger sister of the main character, Tess; the sister having been killed on Tess's watch and just ...more
I listened to this book on and off until I got the chance to drive for a considerable distance by myself. My youngest has a friend named Zoe, so she would have wanted to listen to this story that was basically a letter from the teenager protagonist to her half-sister, Zoe - who passed away on 9/11. But, several situations were not appropriate for an advanced elementary school reader...and I don't think that I my middle schooler would care to read it. With the letter, we find out how she and her ...more
Melissa Fagan
I loved this book. The Sept 11th context, the characters, especially Tess, the setting in my hometown ... all made for a great read. It dealt with loss of a loved one in a very real way but not a tear-jerker.
Last book of the year -- and a worthwhile conclusion to 2014. Written as 15-year old Tess's letter to her 4-year old sister killed by a hit & run driver on Sept 11 as the towers fell, it unpeels all the onion layers that such an event has on both the 15-yr old & on her family. Tess is a great character who self-protectively masks, but finally allows herself to recognize the impact of her loss, and works toward a healthy healing. This was Beard's first novel, and he did well -- especially ...more
This book was about a little girl named Tess and she has always wanted a little sister. She had a stepsister Em, but could never seem to get close to her because they didnt grow up knowing each other. Tess' mom and stepdad had a little girl named Zoe and Tess thought it was her chance to get to know her and finally have a close sister, so she was super happy. Then one day when Zoe was outside playing in the yard she kicked the ball in thwe street, she ran quickly out to the street not knowing to ...more
This book made you think about the people in your life and how they make in impact. Its so real and emotional at points. "Dear Zoe" is about a 15 year old girl named Tess, writing a letter to her sister Zoe who just recently passed away. Tess first explains how she is the oldest and that she does not have the same father as her other two sisters. Tess does not feel the same connection with her step dad and feels like an outcast at points. Zoe died from a hit and run driver on a day where no one ...more
Dear Zoe is a very pretty book. I don't believe this review will be humorous at all, because of the subject-matter, so bear with me.

Tess is a 15 year-old girl trying to deal with seeing her 2 year-old little sister be hit by a car and later die of internal bleeding and this story is composed as a sort of journal directed towards Zoe. Where Beard excels is at expressing the details of a teenaged girl's day-to-day life that she would find important and meaningful to keep Zoe somehow involved with
I was surprised how much Philip Beard (an older man) was able to capture a teenage girls mind. At times it seemed a little far-fetched and stretched, but you can easily get past that.

The most striking thing was the relationships in this novel. They were not half-assed and put there because they had to be, but they were developed and changed as Tess changed. Her relationship with her mother constantly pulled at my heart strings and I found myself tearing up. For anyone who has ever had a strained
Feb 25, 2008 Kaitie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anybody ages 13 and up
Recommended to Kaitie by: I was lazy enough to pick up this book instead of the book I was
I really loved this book! It is about a fifteen-year-old girl named Tess DeNuzzio. The entire book is a letter to Zoe, her sister. She is trying to get back to a normal life after Zoe died on 9-11-01 because of a hit and run driver. Her entire family; her mother, stepfather, and her younger half-sister, Emily, and Tess are trying to cope after the tragedy. She runs away to her dad's house to try to figure everything out. In the letter, Tess tells Zoe about everything, from her 2-hour a day make ...more
'Dear Zoe' by Philip Beard is a short story that packs a powerful punch to the reader. It’s about loss, a family’s heartache and older sister Tess’s blame that she places upon herself when her younger sibling Zoe is killed in a tragic hit-and-run accident on September 11 2001 (of all days). Whilst the entire country is wrapped-up in the events of New York City, the DeNunzio family are struggling to fight their own battle in the hospital. Distraught by her sister’s death, Tess turns to the next b ...more
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Philip Beard was born, raised and then stayed in Pittsburgh, PA where he practiced law full time for ten years before turning to writing. He is best known for his first novel, Dear Zoe, which was a Book Sense Pick, a Borders Original Voices selection, and was named by the American Library Association's "Booklist" as one of its Ten Best First Novels of the year. It has enjoyed a second life being t ...more
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“But love is this really powerful thing that everyone's got if they'd just learn how to accept it. I mean, come on. If it's something we all have to give, and if it's something we all want, doesn't that mean there's exactly enough to go around?” 9 likes
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