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Dear Zoe

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,356 ratings  ·  187 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 ...more
Paperback, 196 pages
Published April 1st 2006 by Plume Books (first published February 21st 2004)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,356 ratings  ·  187 reviews

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Aug 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, audio
Dear Philip,

How did you do that? How did you write a book that is narrated by a fifteen-year-old girl without sounding in any way like anything other than a fifteen-year-old girl? No amount of research could get you to that level of authenticity, so I am really wondering what your secret is. To capture so perfectly what it is to be young, female and utterly broken is no small feat. How did you come up with the idea for this novel (which is brilliant, by the way)? Juxtaposing an epic personal
May 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook

Why this book?

I wanted to read something heart wrenching

What I thought

Like I said I wanted to read something heart wrenching and that is exactly what Dear Zoe was. It was a letter from Tess to her deceased baby sister Zoe. Who died on September 11th but not in the way you think. It tells of story of family, first love and a 15 year old girl struggling to make sense of her grief. I thought this was a really beautifully written book and it filled me up with many emotions. I had a couple
Sep 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book wrecked me...I thought it was very original and the narrator will break your heart.
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult-2012
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 ...more
Rebecca Jones
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Kris the_book_adventurer
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Dear Zoe," by Philip Beard is one of the most emotional books I have ever read. It is also among the most raw, real, and honest books I have ever read, with the bonus of being told from the perspective of a young girl. It is about a young girl writing to her younger sister who was killed by a driver on the tragic day of September 11, and it is also the young girl's struggle of trying to find her place in the world. What makes this book so raw and honest is definitely the perspective of Tess ...more
Aug 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Sep 05, 2013 rated it liked it
"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 ...more
Paola L.
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Personal Response:
This book affected me deeply from an emotional perspective. All the events were thought-provoking. Dear Zoe made me open my eyes and realize how ignorant I was to not consider all the individuals affected on 9/11 beyond those affected by the terrorist attack. Overall, this was a very well written story which is sure to captivate the reader's heart. I was touched by this book because it touched topics related to family. Like Tess, my family means the world to me, so watching
Sarah Hadd
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
What a surprising story. I got this audiobook free with some other purchase and had no prior interest in it. But it was excellent. It was a beautiful, tragic story, and what I think I liked best was that Tess, the narrator and main character, spoke like a 15 year old girl- not like a 35 year old PHd student. This was a quick but thought provoking book. ...more
Ann Woodbury Moore
Zoe, Tess DeNunzio's toddler half-sister, is dead, and Tess thinks it's her fault. In this gripping, honest novel, Tess attempts to ease her sorrow and guilt by writing to Zoe about the accident, what led up to it, and what happened afterwards; her feelings and emotions, fears and hopes; what it's like to be a "normal" 15-year-old, and what it's like to live so burdened with tragedy. And since Zoe died on 9/11, there's a whole array of outside influences and experiences to consider. ...more
Apr 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
"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
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
Jul 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Sarah Lee
Mar 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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. ...more
Sep 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
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)
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Bryan Pearce
Jul 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: teens, young adults
This is an absolutely brilliant book that i would highly recommend. As you read it, you are left wanting more, but are satisfied with the ending. Its only now as i write this that i notice the cover art. It makes the book more haunting.

The book is a letter the main character is writing to her younger sister who she lost on 9/11, but not in the terror attacks. I found the characters likeable, even though they are flawed. The story isnt sugar coated either. This book has left a lasting impression.
Marie Claire
May 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is one of one of the BEST books I've ever read. I actually feel weird reading about Tess (the main character whose sister died in an accident) because we have a lot in common and it is my first time to read about someone so much alike with me. This is a GREAT book and I say you read it before the movie goes out and people would be paying more attention to it - beat them to it! :) It's a book that deals with loss, family, drugs, depression and love.

- and yes it is going to be a movie
Jun 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
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.
Mar 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jess Baxter
Sep 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
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.
Taylor Mead
Aug 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
This book is my favorite. I picked it out of my middle school library for silent reading. I started reading in class and couldn't put it down until I went to sleep that night. I finished it the next day.

This was the book that inspired me to become a writer. I hope to someday be half the writer Philip is, because that is still a great writer.

Thank you Philip!
And Well Done.
Aug 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
I read this book I think about 7 years ago. I think I was around 11 or 12 years-old and I had no idea what I had just read.

But I do remember this was a great book and I always find myself thinking about it from time to time. I think I need to reread it because it's been so long and some of the things that occurred in it I probably didn't understand back then.
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Philip Beard is a recovering attorney and award-winning author of 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 taught in high school classrooms across the country and is currently being developed as a feature film. His ...more
“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?” 12 likes
“People who fall in love can fall out of it.” 9 likes
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