Zane's Trace

Zane's Trace

4.4 5
by Allan Wolf

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Now in paperback! A coming-of-age road story with a supernatural twist — and a compulsively readable poetic novel about identity and belonging.

Zane Guesswind has just killed his grandfather, or so he believes. So he steals the 1969 Plymouth Barracuda his father left behind and takes off on a manic trip to his mother’s grave to kill himself.

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Now in paperback! A coming-of-age road story with a supernatural twist — and a compulsively readable poetic novel about identity and belonging.

Zane Guesswind has just killed his grandfather, or so he believes. So he steals the 1969 Plymouth Barracuda his father left behind and takes off on a manic trip to his mother’s grave to kill himself. Armed with a six-pack of Mountain Dew, a jumbo pack of Sharpies, and a loaded gun in the trunk, he’s headed to Zanesville, Ohio, with no rearview mirror and no more worries. On the way, he meets Libba, a young hitchhiker who shares his destination, and other mystic and mysterious characters. With each encounter and every mile marker, Zane gets farther from the life he knows —but closer to figuring out who he really is.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Dotsy Harland
Zane Guesswind's father left when he was very young. His schizophrenic mother committed suicide several years later, leaving Zane with his older brother Zach and their emotionally distant grandfather. Zane's life is not easy. In addition to being prone to seizures, he feels somehow responsible for the death of his mother. The only thing that seems to help is his compulsion to cover any available surface with writing. The last straw falls when Zane finds his grandfather dead in a chair. He steals Zach's cherished 1969 Plymouth Barracuda, and along with an heirloom Revolutionary War pistol and a set of Sharpies, sets off from Baltimore for Zanesville, Ohio, to kill himself at his mother's grave. Along the way he is visited by the spirits of his parents and ancestors, each of whom fills him in on a piece of his family history. At the end of his journey, Zane is finally able to forgive himself and accept his dysfunctional yet wonderful family. Wolf packs an intense punch with this remarkable novel. He explores such issues as suicide, race relations, and mental illness with compassion and humor. Wolf's poetic, lyrical style places the reader in the "Cuda" with Zane as he passes each mile marker toward self-realization. This novel manages to be suspenseful, funny, and deeply moving at the same time. It could even be considered a ghost story, depending on whether the reader thinks Zane's otherworldly visitors are real or imagined, although in the end it does not matter.
Children's Literature - Greg M. Romaneck
Zane Guesswind is running away from life. During his teenage years Zane's mother has committed suicide, his maternal grandfather has died in bitterness, and he continues to suffer from a seizure disorder, bipolarity, and depression. Seeing life as no longer valuable, Zane takes his brother's car, flees from his home in West Virginia, and starts a journey to his mother's gravesite in Zanesville, Ohio. There Zane plans to use the same antique firearm his mother killed herself with to end his own life. Along the way Zane meets a strange girl, Libba, who gets him to think about the past, present, and future in ways he is not used to. In this way Zane reconstructs his family while also encountering a different way of thinking about himself and everyone around him. Combining a poetic structure with a lyrical style Zane's Trace is a powerful story that will touch readers in an odd and moving way. Throughout the narrative Zane drifts off into fantasies that unwrap parts of his life that are critical. The dialog fluctuates from traditional prose, to unrhymed verse, and dramatic dialog. In each instance the style selected by the author fits like a glove. In the end Zane discovers that ending life requires far less bravery than coping with it. By telling this story Allan Wolf provides his readers with not only a touching and sometimes humorous look at teenage life, but also a glimpse into the world of depression. This is a well told tale that will benefit all who read it. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck
Kirkus Reviews
Zane Guesswind has a tough life: a family riven by mental illness, substance abuse and suicide, plus his own epilepsy and grief. To exorcise his demons, Zane writes obsessively with permanent markers on his bedroom walls and later on the dashboard of the 1969 Barracuda he commandeers and drives to Zanesville, Ohio. There he plans to shoot himself at his mother's graveside with the heirloom pistol she used to kill herself. En route, he meets the intriguing Libba and assorted characters who each hold a piece of the puzzle that is Zane. Welding the coming-of-age road trip to the verse novel energizes and enlivens both. Assured rhythm and taut pacing, haunting characters and a few surprises make this a good introduction to the genre. While drawing from historical characters and events, Zane's story is mainly about coming to terms with family, the inheritance we cannot refuse. Not all questions are answered at the end, but with Zane as the caustic but compelling tour guide, the trip is well worth making. Author's note and extensive bibliography included. (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
"Told in dramatic free verse, Zane’s journey is part history,
part magical realism, and all heart-pounding suspense." — Booklist

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Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.81(w) x 8.56(h) x 0.91(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt

334 Miles to Zanesville

When I die
I want to come back as a 1969 Plymouth Barracuda midnight blue with black-tape accents,
twin dummy hood scoops,
and a 440 big-block engine stuffed between the fenders.
An engine so big they had to install it with a shoehorn and a hammer.

I’ve got a six-pack of Mountain Dew,
a book bag filled with Pop-Tarts, a jumbo pack of Sharpies, a change of socks,
fifty dollars cash, a credit card in my wallet,
and a loaded gun in the trunk.
No rearview mirror. And no more worries.
It’s just over three hundred miles to Zanesville, Ohio.

A straight shot.

Gotta make good time.
The sun’s already up.
By now they’ve probably found the old man’s body.

332 Miles to Zanesville

My mother used to read me this book,
Harold was a little kid who made anything happen just by drawing it.
He could draw a horizon, or a window,
or a door, or stairs, or stars or a boat or a spaceship. No trouble existed that Harold couldn’t fix.

A few years later
Mom kept getting sicker, so Grandpa moved in with us for good. That’s when I started writing on my bedroom walls.

Harold had a purple crayon. I’ve got Sharpies —
medium-tip mostly,
the occasional king size for big ideas.

I figured I could make everything work out if I just wrote on my walls. If I just wrote the right phrase the right number of times or in the right color.

Give my mother back her mind.
Calm the demons in her head.
Leave the darkness far behind.
If need be, take me instead.

My Wyandot shaman father was not around to give me spiritual guidance.
So I created my own heaven, Zane-atopia,
and I drew a picture of it on my ceiling.
Zane-atopia existed at the top of
Mount Guesswind, and my life was the climb.
The earthly world was a dragon’s tail wrapped around the mountain’s base. The bad times were dark clouds. The good times a rainbow.
A bright flash of light shone at the tip-top point of the mountain (where good people went to live with God) and inside the light was my mom and my brother, Zach, and Stanley (he’s my dad),
and even the old man.

All of this I drew on the ceiling until my arms were like lead pipes and my neck was a train wreck.

But it felt good in my stomach.
Like Michelangelo must have felt painting the Sistine Chapel. Like reaching up to touch God’s fingertip.

Now my walls are whispering ten miles back.
I’ll never draw on them or write on them again.
But I can’t help looking at the Barracuda’s dash:
an empty space waiting to be filled.
These Sharpies are dependable.
The only thing I can count on.
They’ll write on just about anything.

The thought of it makes my fingertips itch.

331 Miles to Zanesville

I never did belong in Baltimore.
It hit me like the voice of God a few weeks ago, with summer break gasping to an end:
You don’t belong, Zane.
You don’t belong.
I wrote it on my walls all day.
Don’t belong. Don’t belong. Don’t belong.
Till I got fed up and Googled myself.
And there it was, just a couple pages in:
"Zanesville, Ohio — population 25,586.
Home of the world’s only Y Bridge."
A bridge where three roads intersect!

A town named after me with a bridge that asks, Why, why, why?
I drew the bridge. I drew myself in its center.
And I gave it a caption. I inked it into my walls.
Zane belongs in Zanesville.
Zanesville is the place for Zane.
Why had I not thought of it before?
Zanesville is the town where Mom is buried.

I may as well be buried there too.

329 Miles to Zanesville

Give my mother back her mind.
Calm the demons in her head.
Leave the darkness far behind.
If need be, take me instead.

The day I began to write on my walls
I was listening to the old man hound my mother in his usual way.

Ee-liz-a-beth, this. Ee-liz-a-beth, that.

My grandfather’s voice carried down the air ducts to my basement bedroom,
poisoning the stillness, dimly lit.
The floor was gray cement, the walls light blue,
the ceiling bright white and easy to reach.
I was lying on my bed flipping a penny and considering my options—
should I smother the old man with a pillow?
or plunge a knife into his black heart?
heads, tails, tails, heads, tails, heads—
when the penny took a wild hop,
fell between the bed and the wall,
and lodged in a gap behind the baseboard.
And just like that, it had disappeared.

Ee-liz-a-beth, this. Ee-liz-a-beth, that.

That’s when I heard the music in my head.
Music like a wind-up jack-in-the-box ready to pop.
This was the first of the usual signs:

A seizure was on its way.

327 Miles to Zanesville

I knew from experience
I had about five minutes till the seizure hit.

Ee-liz-a-beth, this. Ee-liz-a-beth, that.

I broke into a sweat. I felt dizzy.
I began to hear the voices.
My mother. My brother. The old man.
All of them calling to me.

But they weren’t there.
The penny is hidden, I thought.
Hidden behind the baseboard.
No one will know. Only me.
My responsibility.

I had to tell.
Someone had to know.
Not about the seizure,
not about my mother, but the penny.

So I pulled my bed away from the wall.
And very carefully.Very lightly,
in pencil, just above the spot where the penny had gone, I wrote:

Penny lost here by Zane Harold Guesswind.

ZANE'S TRACE by Allan Wolf. Copyright (c) 2007 by Allan Wolf. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

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