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In Zanesville

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  3,974 ratings  ·  685 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
Hardcover, 287 pages
Published April 25th 2011 by Little, Brown and Company
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Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,974 ratings  ·  685 reviews

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Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
May 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jan 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
My friend Sam has been telling me to read this for two years or so, and felt so strongly about it that she went out and bought me a copy of it. I finally read it.

And she was right.

This is the story of two girls on the cusp of adolescence, and about what it means to grow up in a small town as well as how friendships grow and change. The writing in this is so real that many of the situations feel raw and uncomfortable, yet so familiar that I was glued to the page. Reading this book low-key
Emma Bolden
Oct 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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 --
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I can understand why someone may not like this book, as it was more scenes in a life of a young teenager in the 1970s than a traditional novel, but I for one enjoyed it very much.

Though cultural touchstones firmly establish a time and date, this book could have taken place at any point before the Internet and cell phones became a constant accessory to everyday life. The author expertly captures the confusion and struggles of growing up—and gets inside the mindset of a young person so well.
Amy Armstrong
Jul 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Kate Woods Walker
May 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
May 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
I want to take this book to the movies. I want to set a place for it at the table. I want to sew a special pocket for it in my purse.
Jul 09, 2018 rated it liked it
A nice little book. Not something I'd recommend to others and say I'm happy to have read but not something I regret either; does a nice job of capturing the moment between childhood and growing up.
May 29, 2011 rated it liked it
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,"
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
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
Jody Kihara
Dec 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
May 15, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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
Everyday eBook
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jun 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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 ...more
Lucy Tan
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love this novel with my whole heart and teach it in class every chance I get. Beard is a master of tension, of language, of weirdness, of getting to the heart of what really matters to humans. I come back to this novel again and again for inspiration in my own writing. It's not just a book about girlhood--For me, the experience of reading it is about cultivating curiosity and that childlike sensibility of being in constant awe of the world.
Apr 08, 2011 rated it did not like it
There is a point where this kind of terrible, no plot, stream of consciousness makes me crazy. I am so disappointed in what Beard is doing here, compared to what she's capable of. And, there are too many better books out there to waste any more time with this one.
Apr 15, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book was a rambling mess. I kept waiting for it to get interesting and for something to happen and nothing ever does. And then it's just over. I actually said 'what the hell' out loud when I read the last page.
Darlin' Neal
Aug 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I love this narrator, the way this book moves, the characters. It's beautifully done. One of my favorite Coming of Age novels ever.
Joe Kraus
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A lot of things happen in this one – it opens with two babysitters who discover their charges have lit the house on fire, and it chronicles most of an eighth grade year fraught with cliques and the discovery of boys – but the center of the book is our protagonist’s voice. Jo is distinct in her perspective and language, so insistent on making sense of the world changing around her, and so consistently funny, that she’s the star of the book even in the rare moments when nothing is happening to ...more
Dana Byerwalter
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
I loved this book! Love it! It was so nostalgic although I have never been a teenager in the 1970s. I have just been loving reading books narrated by kids but written for adults. Black Swan Green, The Lovely Bones, Room, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, and now In Zanesville are all top recommends!

I think what I appreciate about this format is the innocence and playfulness through which we get to see the world. It is a relief to read through the eyes of a child or teenager when so many contemporary adult
Dec 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
John Beck
Mar 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing

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
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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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.
“...within the souls of the awkward and the overlooked often burns something radiant.” 18 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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