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After Zero

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  925 ratings  ·  222 reviews
Elise carries a notebook full of tallies, each page marking a day spent at her new public school, each stroke of her pencil marking a word spoken. A word that can't be taken back. Five tally marks isn't so bad. Two is pretty good. But zero? Zero is perfect. Zero means no wrong answers called out in class, no secrets accidentally spilled, no conversations to agonize over at ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 4th 2018 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
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Greyson After Zero, Christina Collins. 9.4.2018 sourcebooks. Indeed it is!! This book features our protagonist, Elise. Elise is a selective mute who has to na…moreAfter Zero, Christina Collins. 9.4.2018 sourcebooks. Indeed it is!! This book features our protagonist, Elise. Elise is a selective mute who has to navigate through a world with endless conversations and somehow make it through middle school. She is confronted by bullies and bystanders. She keeps a notebook containing tallies, each one represents one word. Her goal is zero words each day, but that proves difficult. She needs to keep her friends and make passing grades. Perfect book for anyone! (less)

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Average rating 4.05  · 
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 ·  925 ratings  ·  222 reviews

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Aj Sterkel
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade
You know those people on Twitter who are always yammering about how they want to “see themselves” in books? Well, this novel confirmed that I’m definitely not one of those people. Just like the main character, I had selective mutism as a child. I’ve never seen it portrayed accurately in any kind of media before. Reading about it mostly reminded me of how miserable I was. I think I’d prefer to leave the unpleasant stuff in my real life, thank you very much.

I can confirm that the author did her re
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book felt like a small mirror into the quietest parts of myself. Those spaces within the heart that echo and pull at so many unsaid words. A mirror that sees and listens, a mirror that understands. I cried more than once while reading Elise's story. And if you've ever felt too quiet, if you've ever felt like the world has taken too much and words are too much more to give, or perhaps if you just need a story of finding your voice, AFTER ZERO is for you.

I could not put this book down, and ag
Dora Mitchell
We all say things we wish we could take back — the stupid joke no one laughed at, the mispronounced word, the awkward conversation with a crush. They’re the comments that haunt you at night, the ones that replay in your mind’s eye over and over until you feel like your own brain is determined to drive you crazy.

Well, Elise has figured out the solution: don’t talk. Not just be careful what you say — don’t say anything at all. Elise has been working on lessening her daily spoken-word count for mon
Amanda Rawson Hill
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. such a unique retelling and a MH issue I knew very little about.
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow! An important and inspiring story. Could not stop reading. A must must must read!!!
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A striking, masterfully-voiced debut with the haunting force of myth, AFTER ZERO offers an intimate picture of the healing power of writing, and owning one’s truth when grief and anxiety isolate us in a world too heavy to bear.

Strongly recommended. Christina Collins is one to watch.
Jemima Pett
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this and was hooked. Christina Collins writes a spirited, empathetic schoolgirl not long out of homeschooling into the wild world of the public school (for UK readers, take that as secondary school or academy). I immediately got inside Elise's head, along with all her worries over mispronunciations of words never before read out loud (mine were saliva and misled), and the disaster of being made to participate in ‘class discussion’. Elise makes the highly logical decision to avo ...more
Anne O'Brien Carelli
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was given an ARC of this book and I wish I could give it 10 stars. Not only is it a sweet and compelling story beautifully written, but every librarian should have a copy handy for those middle school kids (boys or girls) who are loners, isolated, shy, or (like a lot of kids) work hard to hide their terror as they wait for the teacher to call on them. I hope Christina Collins is busy working on another novel because she writes with a gentle touch that's easy to read yet loaded with nuance and ...more
I didn’t even know they had a name for it but it all makes sense after reading this novel, Selective Mutism. An anxiety disorder, where a child speaks in a normal fashion at home (or any comfortable, relaxed, safe environment) but in some social situations, that same child, will refuse to speak. When Elise is unleashed into public schooling, she finds that speaking can get her in trouble and perhaps being silent is the way to go.

Elise had heard stories from Mel, her neighbor about how great sch
Samantha Clark
This book! I had high hopes AFTER ZERO given the topic and that beautiful cover, and it didn't disappoint one bit.

The story pulled me in from the opening, which so brilliantly gives us insight into Elise and her challenge to say as few words as possible. When her words get her in trouble and she aims to go to zero, my heart broke for this girl.

Author Christina Collins did a wonderful job with Elise, her strained relationship with her mother, and the way friendships can fall over judgments and mi
Melanie Sumrow
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Elise’s story is a heartfelt look into a young teen’s gripping anxiety. The friendships and regrets feel very realistic, and I believe this will be a meaningful book for many young readers.
Katie Reilley
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was shared with me for our #bookexpedition group to read and review.

Elise is a main character who immediately pulls you in, and you’ll be thinking about her long after you finish her story. She’s been homeschooled until her seventh grade year, and she struggles socially because she’s yet to learn “the rules” of middle school friendships. Then the one friend she’s had begins pulling away, and Elise decides that the less she speaks, the safer she’ll be.

Midway through, there is a major
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mg-books
After Zero by Christina Collins is heartbreaking, heartwarming, and heart pounding. I was fascinated by Elise's struggle with her mother, bullies, and Selective Mutism. Readers who enjoyed The Thing About Jellyfish and Fish in a Tree will love After Zero. ...more
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
DISCLAIMER: I received a digital review copy of AFTER ZERO via Edelweiss Above the Treeline in exchange for an honest review

4.5 Stars


I’ve mentioned this in my OCDANIEL review, but while I may not have selective mutism, I do struggle with an anxiety disorder, and Elise’s struggles were so painful to read - that being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

I had little to no knowledge of what selective mutism really was prior to my reading this book, and while I’m not goi
Brooke — brooklynnnnereads
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: arcs
This was a very interesting read involving a main character that has selective mutism. Although I have read of characters in the past where their silence has been hinted at, I have not read a book where this topic has actually been addressed. I like how this story allows readers to gain more of a knowledge and understanding behind a topic that is not often discussed.

Along with this story being educational, it was also heartbreaking in the sense that I really felt for the main character. It's ha
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A BEAUTIFUL book, shedding some needed light on a very difficult anxiety condition for kids to carry. I had myself never heard of selective mutism before reading this, and I can so relate to Elise thinking she can control her life if she can control the words that come out of her mouth. I also loved the touch of fantasy in the story, it pulls readers along wondering how Elise can navigate friendships and family ties and make sense of where she finds herself. Well worth reading for everyone, espe ...more
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I could soooo relate. Some days its still easier just to be quiet. Powerful story I think 5th grade and up will find interesting. maybe it will help some child; give them a word for their condition , a place to start. It's the first book I've ever read on the subject in childrens fiction.
I received a Kindle ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC!

After Zero is a beautiful window into the world of selective mutism. The story will keep readers intrigued as the protagonist, Elise, propels the plot forward while barely speaking. Most of us are used to the way that we use words to interact and control others, but in the face of someone who tallies their words every day, aiming for that lowest number, we really get a view of how much impact words really have. Elise measures her words carefully, because she's le
Jul 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gillie
Blech. Unpleasant but important? Revelatory if you stick in there for the ending? Reading this (as a mom, not a kid), I felt like I was on this weird journey where we were glorifying these bizarre, terrible choices. **spoiler** It truly was a revelation and a relief when it turned out we were actually talking about mental illness, and made me feel like the book was worthwhile, maybe even important. Doubly so when I read the author's note. However, it felt much like the common setup for kids' pro ...more
After Zero is a breathtaking middle grade read. I am reluctant to label it as middle grade because it is also a wonderful read for any age. I loved that there were so many twists and turns and just when you thought you had it all figured it out, you didn’t! As a middle school teacher, I would recommend this book to other teachers and students. I think it would make a great read aloud and would have many wonderful discussion points and important themes to point out. The character development was ...more
Janice Mcquaid
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this YA novel on selective mutism. I went in with very little knowledge on the topic. The protagonist gave me some insight into her struggle with this disorder. The post notes give additional sources, which will help me understand more deeply. A solid middle school read.
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Christina Collin’s debut novel is a powerful story that helps understand what it’s like for a child living with selective mutism.
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Found this by accident when looking for another book and was going to give it a pass because the characters are younger than I normally like to read about but I'm glad I didn't!
A really moving and wonderful read, I blazed through this in a few hours. Also LOTS of mentions of swans.
Ms. Yingling
Oct 18, 2018 rated it liked it
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Elise has led a very sheltered life but is now attending the public school. She has found the transition to be very difficult, and her single mother (her father died in a car crash when she was a baby) isn't very supportive. Her one friend, Mel, still attempts to be nice to her, but after making a few unfortunate attempts at conversation after her arrival at the school, Elise has decided to try to say as few words as she can during the day, keeping a tally in her noteboo
Debbie Gascoyne
Aug 02, 2018 rated it liked it
This debut novel was elevated from the run-of-the-mill "problem" novel partly by its insight into a disorder - selective mute syndrome - that apparently the author herself suffered from as a young woman. Elise has had a strange childhood, home-schooled, raised by a remote and apparently uncaring mother, and kept pretty much isolated from other children, to the extent that at 7 years old she had no idea what a birthday party was. Her father had been killed when she was born, reportedly by a drunk ...more
Karen Arendt
This is a very readable story with a main character, Elise, who is strong and very likable. At first readers may wonder that she does not speak because she is afraid of saying the wrong thing and become embarrassed. However, as the story progresses, and readers see how distant her relationship with her mother is, they will wonder if their first assumption was wrong. And it is. Elise’s story is tragic with a little magical element added in. This is a great choice for realistic fiction fans.
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful but heartbreaking look at twelve-year-old Elise who transitions from homeschooling to public school but soon finds that spoken words are not her friends. As she begins to speak less and less she finds that even more attention is drawn to her both in and out of class as she is bullied by girls who were once her friends, and her grades drop as she refuses to participate orally in class. Selective mutism is more common than you might imagine but it's ironic that it appears as if ...more
I snagged this book on a whim at my local public library and I am so glad that I did. This was a lovely, incredible MG novel about a girl who struggles with anxiety and selective mutism. One main thing I noticed about this book that made it different from so many of the other MG novels about a character who struggles to fit in is that the adults in this book didn't always find ways to relate to her. Elise lives alone with her mother and had been homeschooled up until this year. Now, attending a ...more
Lindy MacLaine
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book has many beautiful reviews already writen about it... perhaps more in tune with the book and its subject is for me to say... Nothing.
Haley Arzt
I loved this reading experience! Great choice for #MiddleGradeMarch
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Christina Collins grew up in Massachusetts and lives in Northern Ireland, where she’s always on the lookout for castle ruins and secret gardens. She earned her PhD in creative writing from Queen's University Belfast and her MFA in creative writing from George Mason University. ...more

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“But here at school, my voice was a ticking bomb, each tick sending me closer to ruin. If things went on this way, I’d make enemies of everyone.” 1 likes
“It all comes down to the first thing you think of when you wake up. That first image or idea before the filtering of conscious thought takes over, while you’re still in between. Whatever you think of, that’s the reason you get up in the first place. That’s the reason you get out of bed, into your clothes, into your shoes, and out the door.” 1 likes
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