Dear Zoe

Dear Zoe

4.7 22
by Philip Beard
     
 

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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 Zoe is a remarkable study of grief, adolescence, and healing with a pitch-perfect narrator who is at

Overview

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 Zoe is a remarkable study of grief, adolescence, and healing with a pitch-perfect narrator who is at once sharp and naïve, world- worried and self-centered, funny and heartbreakingly honest. Tess begins her letter to Zoe as a means of figuring out her own life, her place in the world, but the result is a novel of rare power and grace that tells us much about ours. BACKCOVER: “Like The Lovely Bones, [Dear Zoe] is a piercing look at how family recovers from a devastating loss. Everything about this moving, powerful debut rings true.”
Booklist (starred review) 

“Beard peels away the layers of his protagonist’s anguish simply and sensitively. . . and creates real, multidimensional and affecting characters.”
The Washington Post 

“The whole novel . . . rings with truth.”
The Buffalo News

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A 15-year-old girl struggles to cope with private grief in an age of public catastrophe in this awkwardly conceived but sweet, sure-voiced debut. When her little sister, Zoe, dies after being struck by a car on September 11, 2001, savvy, self-aware Tess DeNunzio works through her grief by writing letters to Zoe. Tess's candid observations about her feelings of guilt (she witnessed the accident) and her mourning process give warmth and clarity to her descriptions of daily life in the aftermath. Not sure how to deal with her bereaved mother and uncommunicative stepfather, Tess moves across Pittsburgh to live with her real dad, an underemployed weight lifter with a good heart. Tess's wise-beyond-her-years sensibility can seem contrived ("That's one of the strangest parts of being a stepchild. You actually get to watch your parents fall in love"), and a morality lesson about the virtues of virginity feels tacked on. Most problematically, however, September 11 feels like a giant peg on which a small (but lovely) coat has been hung. Maybe that's the point, but much more moving are Tess's attempts to cope with the conventional aspects of the loss of her sister. (On sale Mar. 28) Forecast: Dear Zoe was about to be self-published when Viking snatched it up. Proper promotion could net the novel some cross-over YA sales. Six-city author tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT
The narrator of this epistolary novel, 15-year-old Tess DeNunzio, recounts her life story to her little sister Zoe, who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on the same day as the World Trade Center disaster. Although the September 11 tie-in seems somewhat contrived and only marginally relevant to the story, Beard does a commendable job of entering the mind of a teenage girl as she negotiates a rocky relationship with her real father and tries to adjust to a changed life with her grieving mother, her stepdad and younger sister Em. Suspense builds to a revelation of events the day Zoe died and why Tess feels responsible for what happened. When next-door neighbor Jimmy Freeze shares some of the weed Tess's dad has sold him, their subsequent lovemaking opens Tess to all the pain she's been repressing: "...the sound of the gurney carrying you over the threshold of the emergency room, your little body jumping as if shocked, bump-bump, and Jimmy suddenly felt red-hot inside me, burning away everything...." Teen girls will be drawn to the authentic voice of a girl in pain, seeking to heal herself following a devastating loss. KLIATT Codes: S--Recommended for senior high school students. 2005, Penguin, Plume, 196p., $13.00.. Ages 15 to 18.
—Jessica Swaim
Children's Literature - Whitney Hartsoe
When Tess DeMunzio's three-year-old sister is killed in a hit-and-run accident the same day as a national calamity—September 11, 2001—Tess begins to chronicle her journey of healing and self-discovery in a series of letters she writes to her sister. Through her honest observations of guilt and sadness, she begins to reveal life in the aftermath of a family torn and separated by a tragedy. As the anniversary of September 11 approaches, Tess resents those who died on that day, a day that should have been her sister's alone. In her whirlwind discovery of adolescence, she encounters sex, love, drugs and the unavoidable interruption of grief and guilt. Tess's candid vulnerability and innocence as well as her wit and honesty draw the reader in partly because Beard so effectively captures the voice of a young adolescent girl and the walls that surround her. Through the novel's unique voice and universal message of a journey to self-discovery and healing, Beard illustrates a force stronger than all the combined forces of adolescence: learning to love and be loved in return. Tess's young romance allows her to open her heart, but the grace of those closest to her confirms the healing power of love.
Library Journal
Beard came close to self-publishing this debut, written as a series of letters by teenaged Tess to her dead sister. With a six-city tour. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-When 15-year-old Tess DeNunzio loses her stepsister in a freak hit-and-run accident on September 11, 2001, she chronicles her family's recovery in an epistolary novel that is a tribute to the power of love to heal. First-time novelist Beard has created a unique and authentic voice in Tess, who struggles with her own ambivalent feelings of guilt. As the first-year anniversary of the Twin Towers collapse and Zoe's death approaches, the teen dreads the day. "The world will stop. People will cry-I don't care about all those others, because I even resent them for dying on the day that should have been yours alone." This honesty, tempered with wit, keeps her afloat as she navigates her adolescence during this rocky period in her family's life. As her tenuous relationship with her stepfather worsens and her mother's silence permeates the house, Tess escapes to her n'er-do-well father's home. She meets Jimmy Freeze, with whom she shares sex and a little weed, which it turns out her father and Jimmy sell. But, more importantly, she learns what it is to love and be loved. Dear Zoe is not a dark novel. Young adults will identify with Tess's resilience and find the far-from-perfect adults who populate her world familiar. When Tess returns to her blended family, readers understand her well-intentioned father's pain. It is a moment that will resonate for many as Tess realizes that what is right for her will hurt the imperfect parent she loves.-Pat Bangs, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In an epistolary first novel about the process of grieving, a 15-year-old girl writes letters to the younger sister whose death she feels responsible for. First-timer Beard hangs his story on the coincidence that Tess's three-year-old half-sister Zoe was killed in a car accident in the Pittsburgh area just as thousands were dying on September 11, 2001. Tess, who describes herself as a mediocre student who wears lots of makeup, had been watching Zoe but left her alone in the front yard for a few minutes to watch the news on television. Now she is racked with guilt. Although readers may consider Tess's relationship with her parents more loving and healthy than most, she feels increasingly disconnected from her beautiful, grief-stricken mother and educated, hard-working stepfather, David. She resents being excluded from their anguish and is particularly uncomfortable around David despite his obvious caring sensitivity. She claims she feels a stronger connection to her birth father, with whom she has never lived and whom she knows is a loser drifting from job to job. She draws closer to her other half-sister, Emily, a precocious first-grader who depends on her support; but after Tess discovers that her mother has been flirting with another man to relieve her own sorrow, Tess leaves her middle-class home to stay with her birth father in his run-down neighborhood. There, she becomes involved with Jimmy, the pot-smoking "bad boy" next door, and realizes her father is a small-time dealer. Though undisciplined and shady, Jimmy and her father are nothing if not protective and sensitive where she's concerned. Smoking dope and carrying on with Jimmy, she begins to enjoy herself, until a series ofevents on the eve of her 16th birthday causes her repressed grief to bubble over. Earnest and sensitive-to a fault. Author tour

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780452287402
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/25/2006
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
1,219,040
Product dimensions:
5.15(w) x 7.81(h) x 0.47(d)
Lexile:
1070L (what's this?)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Philip Beard is a recovering attorney who still practices law part time in Pittsburgh, where he lives with his wife and three daughters. His first novel, Dear Zoe, was a Book Sense Pick, a Borders Original Voices Selection, and was chosen as one of the ten best first novels of 2005.

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Dear Zoe 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A child's death is surely one of life's most painful experiences. It is, perhaps even more heartrending when one of the grief stricken is little more than a child herself. In this fully realized fiction debut by Philip Beard just such a scenario is presented. Tess, is the guilt ridden mourner, and Zoe, is her three-year-old sister, killed by a hit-and-run driver. Tess's story is told in the form of letters written to Zoe, and read by voice actress Cassandra Morris. It's a triumphant performance, never soaked in sentimentality but an uncompromising rendering of the thoughts and experiences undergone by Tess following her little sister's death. A mere 15 years old, Tess is almost overcome by feelings of guilt because she saw the accident; it occurred when Zoe was in her care. That's certainly enough to hobble even the most mature. We hear Tess's struggle as she first leaves the home she shares with her mother and stepfather to move in with her birth father, a man with mega dreams and minor realizations. Nonetheless, he's a good man and cares for Tess. Like many other girls her age she soon finds herself attracted to a boy, and lands a summer job. She seems on the road to healing until the unexpected happens and she is confronted with some immutable truths. - Gail Cooke
LauraMHartman More than 1 year ago
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 her when she got older. Like how they decided as a family to name her Zoe. She also tells her about how the family she left is coping with the hole left in their lives when Zoe died. Tess is actually Zoe’s step-sister. Her mom and step-father married when Tess was young, after her mom divorced her real dad, who still plays a part in Tess’ life. He isn’t necessarily a bad person, but is more of a dreamer and sometimes a schemer who always finds a reason not to work. David, Tess’ step-father, is a hard working family man who loves her. He didn’t really know much about being a father, but got better at it as the family grew with two more daughters, Emily and Zoe. Tess always thought of Em and Zoe as her sisters, never “half” or “step”, loving them both with her whole heart. After Zoe’s accident the little family imploded. The only one that seemed to be “normal” was Em. The seven-year-old has always been wise beyond her years, but losing the little sister she adored and watching the rest of her fragile family float away from her was way too much for a first grader to handle. This book is quite possibly one of the best books I have ever read. The underlying sadness of Zoe’s death mixed with the joy she brought to the family in her three short years is heart-breakingly beautiful. Now Tess has to grow up fast and could easily take the wrong path when it is practically dropped in her lap. Em is the one that broke my heart. She was so lost without anyone to tell her life would be ok I wanted to bring her home to keep her safe until her family was well enough to do it themselves. Em made me cry more than once as she watched her family disengage from the life she knew and she was too small to get it back. Beard is an extraordinary author. He creates characters that are so well developed they don’t just seem real; they ARE real to the reader. Tess grows up in the year it takes her to write this love letter to Zoe, and it is not without pain. We are swept along through her loss of innocence, hoping she will make it through this personal journey without too many scars. This is Beard’s first book, and has since written two more, Lost in the Garden and Swing. I’ve read Swing and plan to order Lost in the Garden today. It is rare to find an author that can write in so many different voices and make all of them come to life. The stories he tells are rich and full, giving the reader enough details to pull you into the world he has created with his words without a hint of slowing the flow of the intricately beautiful plot. I read a lot of books. Only a handful of authors amaze me. Philip Beard is one of them. Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just started this book and I already love it!!! 5 Stars for sure
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
vhalen More than 1 year ago
I only write comments for books that I truly enjoy. This book was truly enjoyable. Maybe it is because I have also lost a child, albeit in a different way. Maybe it is because I can relate so well to Tess and her family as they work through their grief, never to get over it but only to get through it. This was an easy read and kept you coming back for more. You want to root for the characters as they go through their daily motions, individually and as a family. What I really enjoyed about the book was, not only does it speak of the grief parents go through when they lose a child, it speaks about the grief of the siblings. As I read this book, I often thought of my daughter and son and the grief they also experienced when my son died. I highly recommend this book, especially if you have ever lost a child.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book will make you laugh and make you cry. This story is amazing!
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wheeze More than 1 year ago
How would you feel if your own sister, friend, mother was killed, by a driver who didn't even stop? Would you cry, laugh, feel angry, or just all around numb? That is what Tess has to go through when her sister Zoe was killed one faithful day by a hit and run driver. Throughout DEAR ZOE, you experience Tess, writing letters and diary entries to her sister. She goes through the steps of grief and what is happening with her family. It is a short read, only 200 pages, but in those pages, you experience first hand with this family went through. An enjoyable book for anyone's eyes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
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 fifteen-year-old girl at the center of DEAR ZOE, where she was on 9/11, she'll be quick to tell you that she was at home with her younger half-sister, Zoe, waiting for the school bus like any other day. Except for that one moment, when she let her gaze wander elsewhere, and Zoe ran into the street, into the path of an oncoming car. For Tess and her family, 9/11 is a day they'll never forget.

DEAR ZOE is Tess's letter to Zoe, her way of healing from her sister's death and coming to terms with the changes that have taken place in her extended family. This isn't a story about September 11th, 2001, in the ways that most of us have come to view that day. As Tess puts it, "...just like all the people who go to New York and cry over the rubble. I want to tell them all to go home. I want to tell them to go home and hold their children or their lovers or their parents. I want to tell them that they are using that place as an excuse to be sad and afraid when there will be reason enough for that in their own lives if they just wait."

According to recent facts, nearly 150,000 people die every day. That's about 1.8 people every second. And yet no one seems to remember the other 147,000 people that died on 9/11. That includes myself. Until reading DEAR ZOE, I had never stopped to consider that there were other people around the world who were grieving for lost loved ones who had nothing to do with an act of terror.

Thanks to Mr. Beard, I now have a new way of looking at that day in history. I also have the story of Tess and Zoe, which will stay with me for much longer than it took for me to read the book. Love, loss, regret, and forgiveness mingle within the pages of DEAR ZOE to form a story that, quite possibly, you'll remember even five years later.
Guest More than 1 year ago
IN this book, when her little sister is killed, and she has to get through it, it is an amazing book on how teens get through hard things. I thought is was very life like, and makes you cry. In my opinion it was never boring. This book makes you think about all different things, and shows a side a a teen that has average, problems with her parents, and her stepdad david. SHe learns that things arent as they seem. I hope you read and love this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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 fifteen-year-old girl at the center of DEAR ZOE, where she was on 9/11, she'll be quick to tell you that she was at home with her younger half-sister, Zoe, waiting for the school bus like any other day. Except for that one moment, when she let her gaze wander elsewhere, and Zoe ran into the street, into the path of an oncoming car. For Tess and her family, 9/11 is a day they'll never forget. DEAR ZOE is Tess's letter to Zoe, her way of healing from her sister's death and coming to terms with the changes that have taken place in her extended family. This isn't a story about September 11th, 2001, in the ways that most of us have come to view that day. As Tess puts it, '...just like all the people who go to New York and cry over the rubble. I want to tell them all to go home. I want to tell them to go home and hold their children or their lovers or their parents. I want to tell them that they are using that place as an excuse to be sad and afraid when there will be reason enough for that in their own lives if they just wait.' According to recent facts, nearly 150,000 people die every day. That's about 1.8 people every second. And yet no one seems to remember the other 147,000 people that died on 9/11. That includes myself. Until reading DEAR ZOE, I had never stopped to consider that there were other people around the world who were grieving for lost loved ones who had nothing to do with an act of terror. Thanks to Mr. Beard, I now have a new way of looking at that day in history. I also have the story of Tess and Zoe, which will stay with me for much longer than it took for me to read the book. Love, loss, regret, and forgiveness mingle within the pages of DEAR ZOE to form a story that, quite possibly, you'll remember even five years later. **Reviewed by: Jennifer Wardrip, aka 'The Genius'
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although written by a male, the subtleties and concerns of a 15 year old girl are captured vividly and with great accuracy. Tess's voice is endearing, painfully honest, and a lot times funny. This is a book you'll want to read in one sitting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is one of the best books ever. i couldnt put it down. its hard to describe, all i can say is that u have to read it. its the best of the best. im lovin it. kiss the hand!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is one of the best books it has really affect on people because it happened on one of the worst days in that year.It was a touching story and was well written. i have grown up with books my whole life because my parents are publisher. So i know a good book when i see one.This book is one of the most touching books i have read it is a good idea if u read this
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dear Zoe is a powerful and uplifting book. It's pages are of loss, grief, and troubled humor. Sometimes Beard even threw in some outrageous pain and unexplainable understanding. I think that Beard did very well for this being his first novel. He tells Tess's story intricately and enjoyably. This is a great story and I recommend it for anyone who is going through a loss or for someone that has recently experienced the loss of a loved one. If not, Dear Zoe is always a great book to read just because. Enjoy!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dear Zoe is a powerful story of loss as experienced by the delicate sensibilities of a teenage girl. The author treats the protagonist, Tess, with unwavering respect and great charm as she comes to terms with her sister's accidental death. It's clear that while her family is close knit, the tragedy can only be interpreted and dealt with individually. Tess' reaction is very different than that of her mother, step-father, and younger sister. The juxtaposition with 9/11 makes the point that a tragedy is a tragedy no matter the scale, but also that all forms of grief are important and must be valued. Through Tess' story, which is liberally sprinkled with her clever humor and practical insight, the author reminds us that teenagers are at once fragile yet resilient: while the loss of her sister had a deep impact, Tess' view of life is ultimately balanced by an appreciation of the immediacy of life - including long summer evenings - so we must believe that her repair is achievable. A great reminder for all of us to balance the gravity of death with the magnificence of life. Bravo for a first novel. I look forward to the next novel!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books you do not want to complete, so, even though you long to know the ending, you delay it by just reading a page or paragragh at a time and forcing yourself to put it down to keep that entertainment waiting just a little longer for some future pleasure. Tess is a very real 15 year old whose emotions surrounding her sister's accidental death are capitivating and gripping, pulling at your heart strings at every turn. What a fabulous, well-written story!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the kind of book that you pick up because you just HAVE to read a certain part of it to someone, and then you end up re-reading the whole thing again yourself.