Book 40: In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard

In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard is historical fiction in that it takes place in Illinois in the 1970s, and that the references to TV shows, food obsessions (Jello; pizza delivery as a rare treat and a prank to pull on unsuspecting neighbors), and clothing are totally 1970s. But that’s where it ends, because the interactions between our fourteen year-old (unnamed?) narrator (how am I only just now realizing this…) and her friends, family, and strangers are completely typical of most teenagers, regardless of era.Beard wrote a totally authentic voice, at times annoying and whiny, at other times very mature and thoughtful. (Like many a teenagers’ thoughts.)

I initially wanted to stop listening to the audiobook. I was annoyed by the reader’s voice, tone, and accents. They didn’t sound authentic, in fact, the accents she chose for certain characters sounded forced (except the mother’s…that voice was spot-on perfect and I loved every chapter she was in). But I eventually looked past it because the book moved quickly enough for me not to be annoyed for too long.

The book is basically the year-long story of the narrator’s life, which includes a bathroom trashcan fire while babysitting the town heathens, buying super-stylish clothes on law-away so people would forget how unremarkable and plain she was, and going through puberty and all of the weird changes (mentally and physically) that go along with it. What I truly loved about the narrator was that no matter how weird or unsure she felt, she was totally cool with herself. She understood she wasn’t a cute girl, and didn’t even mind her status as “the sidekick”. She stood up to a boy, and for herself, and for those reasons, I fell in love with our nameless girl.

I will recommend this book to…I don’t know who. I doubt teen girls would love it. It’s not an exciting story, but the plot keeps moving enough to keep a reader’s interest. And the insight into 1970s teenage-dom is rather fascinating. I think my mom might enjoy it, but I can’t say for sure. Maybe that’s how I’ll recommend this book to people, “I think you’ll love it! Or maybe not…” I know I liked it.

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