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Zen and Xander Undone Hardcover – May 3, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up—Zen and Xander have always been opposites; flashy Xander is brilliant in school, while Zen is more laid back and focused on studying martial arts. When their mother dies, they grieve in different ways. Their father disappears into his misery, Xander gets involved with a crowd that deals in drugs and alcohol, and Zen finds herself resorting to violence as the first solution to dangerous situations. When she gets injured and can no longer teach karate until she has healed in both body and spirit, she struggles with her feelings of helplessness and her inability to get through her sister's ever more hazardous attitude. It only makes things worse when the girls uncover a secret about their mother that has them wondering if they ever really knew her. Zen's narration gives both her actions and her emotions a feeling of immediacy and closeness. Though the ending leaves some questions about Zen's future unanswered, both Xander and the girls' father go through dramatic changes, which Zen chronicles with keen insight. The themes of the negative influences of drugs and alcohol never overpower the story; instead, the focus remains tightly on two young women at a sensitive time in their lives.—Alana Joli Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
"Zen’s frank narration—full of longing and hard-won insight—draws readers in and won’t let go."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Vivid emotions and unexpected events keep the reader engaged as the characters grow and find a way back to themselves."--Booklist
Top customer reviews
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**Special Thanks to Houghton Mifflin for my review copy of this book!!
Xander is and has always been the wild one, but since their mother's death her behavior has become completely defiant and even dangerous. Zen is worried.
Zen is all about control. Her interest in martial arts is just one example. The discipline, the ceremony, and the rigid standards are perfect for her. The emotional upheaval of losing her mother has her searching for stability.
The girls begin receiving letters and packages from their mother, sent by a mysterious someone. The items arrive on special occasions like Christmas, Mother's Day, and birthdays. When Zen and Xander attempt to discover the identity of the mysterious sender, they stumble across a secret life their mother has hidden for years. Did she have an affair? How long did it last? Was their parents' marriage in jeopardy?
In an effort to uncover the secret, the girls question neighbors, relatives, and even the family lawyer. They are determined to find the answers they seek no matter the consequences.
ZEN & XANDER UNDONE is an excellent addition to any collection of books for teenage girls. Amy Kathleen Ryan takes readers on an emotional ride as her believable characters face the challenge of surviving the loss of their mother and finding a way to move on toward whatever the future might hold. She combines heartbreaking emotions with humor and a bit of fun to capture readers and take them into the lives of Zen and Xander.
Reviewed by: Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky"
Xander's volatile nature drags the plot along, and if it weren't for her, there would not be much of a story. It is she that wants to find out about her mom's past and insists on getting involved with the wrong sort of people. Zen is sort of just along for the ride, but fighting to get off and take her sister off with her.
There was something about this book that was missing. I can't say what exactly, but it was lacking a little...Oomph. The extra bit that would make it amazingly memorable. As is, it's better than average.