Dear Zoe

Dear Zoe

by Philip Beard

Paperback(Reprint)

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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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780452287402
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/25/2006
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 807,848
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile: 1000L (what's this?)
Age Range: 18 Years

About 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.

 

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
From Little Women to Huckleberry Finn, from A Member of the Wedding to The Catcher in the Rye, American authors have developed a remarkable body of literature about the challenges and exhilarations of growing up. This tradition is now further enriched by the publication of Dear Zoe, a sensitive and insightful coming-of-age novel by Pittsburgh attorney Philip Beard. Related as a series of letters from the main character to her deceased little sister Zoe, the novel reveals the mind, heart, and emotional struggles of fifteen-year-old Tess DeNunzio. At first, Tess writes simply to re-create a bond with her sister. As time goes by, however, her letters become a comprehensive and thoughtful chronicle of her efforts to understand herself, her family, and the world around her. Without a trace of literary pretension, Tess writes with both humor and eloquence. With pensive candor, she speaks not only for herself but also for anyone who has known the loneliness, fears, and frustrations of coming of age in contemporary America.

Although Tess's angst and insecurities will quickly resonate with the typical reader, her personal plight is anything but typical, and if she elicits sympathy, she neither claims it nor feels that she deserves it. To the contrary, her inner sufferings are rooted in almost unbearable self-condemnation.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Tess was entrusted with looking after three-year-old Zoe. Distracted by the horrible news blaring from her mother's television, Tess turned away from her task just long enough for Zoe's fatal accident to occur. Not able to feel at home with her grief-stricken mother, her emotionally enigmatic stepfather, and her surviving half sister, Tess abruptly moves across town to live with her hapless biological father. There, in a neighborhood rife with crime and drug use, she meets Jimmy Freeze, an amiable boy with a delinquent past. Jimmy has all the looks of someone who might make Tess's troubles even worse, but he may also be able to give her the support and perspective she needs to start living again.

Striking in its characterizations and brilliantly precise in its dissections of both adolescence and human nature, Dear Zoe deftly juxtaposes a national catastrophe with personal tragedy. While acknowledging mass suffering, it also reaffirms the need of individuals to give and receive love. In his precociously wise but profoundly vulnerable narrator, Philip Beard creates a character of superb nuance and unusual depth. Dear Zoe is both a realistic portrait of troubled youth and a work of artistic and philosophical significance.

 


ABOUT PHILIP BEARD

Philip Beard is a recovering attorney who still practices law part time in Pittsburgh, where he lives with his wife and three daughters. 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.

 


A CONVERSATION WITH PHILIP BEARD

You are an attorney as well as a novelist. Both occupations demand excellence in writing, though the kinds of writing required are very different. Legal writing is formal and deductive, and it can be ruined by ambiguity. Novelistic writing has fewer rules and can thrive on ambiguity. In writing Dear Zoe, did you find it challenging to make the transition from one set of writing conventions and aesthetics to another?

No. Writing is writing. In both genres, you define your conflicts early, let them play out against one another, and then hope that you have made your case eloquently enough to convince your audience. I've read plenty of novels that have put me to sleep, and more than a few judges' opinions that have made me envious as a writer. The greatest legal conflicts in history, issues like women's suffrage, segregation, abortion, aren't really legal conflicts at all but moral and emotional ones. The skill set required to make those kinds of arguments is also the novelist's skill set. Certainly the two writers' goals are the same: We're trying to make someone believe in a reality we've created, to care about it enough to stay with us until the end, and, if we're really lucky, to make them remember it.

I did receive one particularly good piece of advice from an old judge who taught trial tactics that has served me well and probably explains why my first novel is such a short one. On the first day of class, he looked down from his bench, his glass eye wide and white, his good eye sharp and squinting, and instructed us that we would all do well to "be brief, be brief, be brief, because you're probably f---ing up anyway."

Dear Zoe invites readers to think a great deal about causal relations between events. Strictly speaking, Zoe is not a victim of the 9/11 terrorists, and she would have been alive if the attacks had not taken place. Indeed, as Tess astutely points out, Zoe's death is caused by an endless series of events, including the first meeting of her parents. We begin to get the feeling that "cause" is a pretty slippery concept, one that might or might not be related to responsibility and fault. It is also one that Tess has powerful motives for wanting to fudge. In your view, is there any way to talk about the cause of Zoe's death that brings us closer to understanding it?

No. There is no understanding tragedy. If you're lucky enough to have profound religious or spiritual convictions, maybe acceptance comes more easily, but there's no real understanding that's possible. So, in that sense, to suggest that Tess might be "fudging" the concept of cause is unfair. She's doing what people who decide to keep living after tragedy do: She's coming to terms with a new reality, with her role in having brought it about, and she's deciding that trying to live in that new reality as best she can is better than the alternative.

Dear Zoe is powerfully reminiscent of The Catcher in the Rye. Both novels are narrated by disaffected teenagers who claim to have poor vocabularies, who consider themselves less gifted than their siblings, and whose lives have been drastically altered by the death of a younger family member. What do you think of comparisons between your work and J. D. Salinger's?

The very fact that every book narrated by a disaffected teenager is "compared" to The Catcher in the Rye is proof that there is no comparison. But thank you.

It's quite a tall order for a grown man to think his way into the mind of a teenage girl. However, Tess DeNunzio is a remarkably convincing persona. How were you able to construct such a detailed and sympathetic portrait?

Tess wouldn't exist without my stepdaughter Cali, although they are very different people. Watching her go through those middle teen years, listening to her with an ear that was part father, part student, learning from my mistakes with her how I might better parent my younger daughters—all of these things helped bring Tess to life. Beyond that, for some reason I have always been able to hear voices. Some writers have a talent for constructing intricate plots, creating a vivid sense of place, or manipulating prose as if it were poetry. Writers I admire—Richard Russo, Ian McEwan, T.C. Boyle, Frederick Busch, Lewis Nordan, Kent Haruf, Susan Minot—seem, miraculously, to be equally good at all three. So far, the only part of writing that comes naturally to me is voice. Stripped to its most essential elements, Dear Zoe is all dialogue. It's Tess speaking to Zoe. If that has somehow revealed Tess to readers, I could hope for nothing more.

Your novel has interesting things to say about the incantatory power of language, either real or imagined. Tess talks about the "magic words" recited by priests as they dispense the Eucharist. Tess, Em, and her mother all attach an almost magical significance to the naming of Zoe, but of course her name fails to protect her. Does Tess lose her faith in language or does her belief in it merely acquire a different shape as the novel progresses?

That's a good question, and one I couldn't even pretend to answer for her. My hope would be that Tess's faith in language isn't lost, but strengthened by her ability to come to terms with her tragedy through it. No, there are no "magic words," and even someone like Pip in Great Expectations, who exercised almost godlike power by daring to name himself on the first page, couldn't protect himself from tragedy. Still, Tess told her story, and that is the ultimate affirmation of the power of language, whether she realizes it or not.

The contrasts and symmetries in your work are intriguing. Tess has two fathers who seem to be polar opposites but who infuse the novel with a delicate sense of balance. Tess's sister Em, with whom Tess is implicitly compared, is "Me" spelled backward. What are your thoughts about these and other balancing elements in your novel?

Wow. Maybe if I had spent a little more time in writers' workshops I'd have an answer for that one. Maybe I'd even think about things like "balance" while I was writing. As it is, I just try to create characters I care about enough to want to spend a year or so with them, and then watch to see what they might do. Usually, I'm as surprised as any reader by what they decide. Whatever balance that comes out of that process is, I suppose, the balance that naturally exists in the story of anyone's life. So, no, Em isn't "Me," at least not on purpose. It's just short for Emily. And yes, that is "Y-lime" spelled backward, but I swear that doesn't mean anything.

Tess doesn't have a lot of patience with people who write emotional poems about September 11 and make pilgrimages to Ground Zero even though they lost no one in the attacks. Your novel raises issues, in general, about the proper scope of grief and who has a right to what emotions. Do you share Tess's ideas about commemoration and grieving, either generally or with regard to September 11 in particular?

I think the important distinction is between grief and fear. People have a right to their emotions, but sometimes they mischaracterize them. Grief is intensely private; fear can be very public and shared with everyone else who is similarly situated. We all have the right to be afraid after September 11, but grief is reserved for those who have suffered a real loss. The amount and immediacy of the media coverage had a lot to do with the blurring of that line. We all felt as if we were there; we lived through that day together. And the stories that were told that day and in the weeks that followed created such empathy between viewer and victim that it was possible to grieve, briefly at least, with families we had never met. But the emotion connected with that day that still remains in those outside the circle of loss is, I think, more properly characterized as fear. As a member of that day's circle of loss, Tess is understandably more emotional about the distinction and becomes almost territorial about her grief. Whether you agree with her or not, it's hard to blame her for that.

Dear Zoe presents itself as an epistolary novel; that is, a series of letters from one character to another. However, this formal device is complicated by the fact that the supposed recipient of these letters is dead. Moreover, Tess uses these letters to discuss matters that an older sister would be unlikely to share with a preschool-age sibling, including drug use and sex. Why did you have Tess adopt the fiction of writing to Zoe?

Again, I'm going to have to plead innocence on the conscious use of formal devices. Tess speaks directly to Zoe because that's what she wanted to do from the very beginning. And I found myself following her instincts because they seemed right to me. Why would she want to tell you or me about her feelings? Who are we to her? And these don't have to be "letters" in the formal sense, so it doesn't matter that there's no one to physically receive them. Maybe she's not even writing all of this down. Maybe she's talking to Zoe. Maybe she's just thinking, remembering, praying; it doesn't really matter. What's important is that she has created a confidante for herself. We are merely eavesdropping.

The point of view was actually a focus of major contention during the submission process of the novel. It was rejected by a handful of publishing houses in its epistolary form, and I was advised by more than one industry expert to change the point of view to standard first person before having my agent, Jane Dystel, continue to submit to other editors. I strongly resisted the change but, I'm not proud to say, finally relented because I had already had one novel rejected by every major New York publisher. A few years of people telling you you're not quite good enough can create enough doubt that you start listening to advice you might otherwise dismiss.

Anyway, I revised the manuscript, retitled it "Z," literally cried when I sent it off that way, and watched it get rejected by twenty more editors. After a period of mourning, I decided to publish it myself and spent six months learning the business, hiring a cover designer, a publicist, a printer, a distributor, even getting my own ISBN number. It was actually great fun, except for the fact that I was committing a chunk of my children's college fund to fulfilling my own pipedream. But I was in control of every aspect of the process, and that meant going back to the original epistolary point of view and title. One day, I handed a copy of the manuscript to John Towle, the owner of The Aspinwall Bookshop in my neighborhood. He passed it along to Jason Gobble, his Penguin sales rep, who gave it to Clare Ferraro, president of Viking Penguin, and Clare called me, quite literally, as I was having the final text files and cover mechanicals e-mailed to my printer. Ironically, one of the aspects of the book Clare liked most was the epistolary point of view. Go figure.

Adolescents naturally make critical judgments about the adult world. Tess is unusual in that her judgments are conditioned by the very harsh judgment she has made against herself. How has Tess's self-imposed guilt affected her capacity and willingness to judge the people around her?

I don't find Tess unusual at all in that regard. Teens are naturally judgmental because judgment is a relatively new skill for them, and they practice it on the easiest of targets, namely adults. Teens, for the most part, are better people than adults, and they know it. If anything, Tess's guilt, which is primarily an adult emotion, makes her more tolerant of the adults in her life than the average teen. Her father, for example, is ripe for judgment, and although she makes observations about his lifestyle and his choices, she doesn't judge him.

Tess admits that she is not good at "being what [she] could be," that she is skilled only in being what she is. And yet doesn't her future, as well as the outcome of your novel, depend on her ability to imagine and eventually become a new, hypothesized self? And isn't it strange that we think negatively about teenagers who try to be something they aren't while we urge them to be all they can be; i.e., something they have not yet become?

I don't know what a "hypothesized self" is. Tess, like all of us, lives in the exact center of the duality of who she was and who she is becoming. None of us is very good at "being what [we] could be." And the outcome of the novel doesn't depend on anything other than what Tess becomes in the pages after the last page. My idea of what that might be is no better than yours. I know what I want for her, and I think that's where parents get in the most trouble with teens. We're always looking forward, because we think that's our job, instead of celebrating who our kids are now. I'm not advocating leaving our kids entirely to their own devices. They need to be given responsibility and held accountable. We need to demand that they treat others with kindness and respect. Beyond that, our greatest demand should be that they listen to their instincts, follow their bliss, wherever that might lead. That kind of path might have a lot of stops and restarts—mine certainly has—but the result is more likely to be fulfilling than setting a path for them that they follow for too long before realizing it's the wrong one.

Tess's sexual initiation with Jimmy Freeze appears to open a floodgate of emotion for her; seemingly, it is the event that finally enables her to write specifically about the morning of Zoe's death. It seems that, in your novel, carnal knowledge is not merely the knowledge of another person's flesh. It can also signify a knowledge through the flesh of one's own repressed memories and desires. Any thoughts?

That's a fairly broad statement that, as a man, I can't answer. I have been told enough times that intimacy is different for a woman than it is for a man that I have to believe it's true—that the trust and acceptance necessary for a woman to give of herself in that way, especially the first time, is the ultimate vulnerability. For Tess, that vulnerability is magnified many times over by her loss and by the weight of her repressed guilt. When she opens herself to Jimmy Freeze, everything from her love for him to her own self-hatred comes rushing out at once. Ironically, she has been looking at Jimmy as her escape, and yet it's when she finally gives herself to him completely that she is forced to face reality.

Dear Zoe has a lot of counterintuitive things to say about the nature of good and bad. Tess smokes pot, has sex, and is attracted to bad boys, but few readers are likely to see her as a bad person. Jimmy is described as "a really good guy who couldn't help himself from screwing up." Tess seems concerned about getting a handle on what good and bad really mean. Does she finally know? Do we?

It's only counterintuitive if you try to apply rigid, archetypal concepts of good and bad to real people. But our heroes seldom survive scrutiny, and our villains' lives, once rewound, almost always reveal forces that might have ruined any one of us. The only person in Tess's life we might be tempted to call definitively bad is Travis, and we don't see enough of him to pass judgment—who his parents were, what kind of loss or abuse he might have suffered that would explain the way he has turned out. So, does Tess finally know the meaning of good and bad? Of course not. But she knows something more important. And here for once I feel comfortable speaking for her because she is fairly direct about this: She knows who deserves her love, she knows from whom she can expect love in return, and she knows that they are all the same people. That's pretty powerful knowledge.

 


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • Tess, Em, and their mother select the name Zoe "not so much because we loved the name but because we didn't know anyone else who had it." This reasoning runs counter to the thinking of people who choose a name to create connections, perhaps to a beloved relative or a famous person. In the naming of Zoe, any existing context is assumed to be negative. Is it significant that Zoe's name denies context instead of affirming it?
     
  • Tess has two dads who differ on practically all points. Her stepdad, David, is a successful lawyer who tries "real hard" and is "all about efficiency." Her biological father, Nick, "is basically a zero in the professional life department," never tries hard, and yet is the person to whom Tess instinctively turns. Within the confines of the story, which character do you find more appealing? Would your answer be different if you were talking about real people instead of fictional characters? If so, what accounts for the difference?
     
  • In the first chapter of Dear Zoe, Tess declares that nothing changes everything. In the last chapter, she suggests that she was mistaken and that, to the contrary, "everything changes everything." Why does Tess now feel differently about the relation among events, and which of her two statements do you believe is closer to the truth?
     
  • Why is Tess so obsessed with her daily makeup ritual?
     
  • Is Zoe a presence in this novel, an absence, or both?
     
  • In the chapter titled "Church," Tess makes mordantly funny observations about religious attitudes and practices. How do you react to her critique of the Catholic and Episcopal churches?
     
  • Even before Zoe's accident, Tess occupies an ambiguous place within her family because she is not David's daughter. How does her status as a stepchild influence her responses to everyday life, as well as the cataclysmic disruption of that life?
     
  • Consider Em's role in the novel. How is she an essential part of Beard's story? What dimensions does her presence add to the novel?
     
  • Jimmy Freeze, who seems at a loss to put his own life in order, becomes essential in helping Tess to reconstruct hers. Just what is it about him that makes him such an unexpectedly good influence on her?
     
  • How does Tess's first sexual experience transform her? Is it represented as a necessary rite of passage or as something still more significant? Does her newly acquired sexual awareness translate into a clearer awareness of herself?
     
  • How do the massive public tragedies of September 11, 2001, affect the significance of Zoe's death and its impact on Tess's family?
     
  • Tess speculates at the end of the novel that perhaps "Z" is the shape of everyone's life. Has she succeeded in extracting some kind of coherence from all that has happened to her? What do you imagine the shape of Tess's life will be after the novel is over?
     
  • Customer Reviews

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    Dear Zoe 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 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
    Fourborne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Tess is griefing for her younger sister who was killed by a hit and run driver. Tess tells the story of the effect it had on her and her family.
    bobbieharv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Written in the form of a letter from a teen-aged girl to her sister who was nit by a car on 9/11. Pretty good mastery of the voice, surprisingly.
    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
    Name: Eagle <br> Age: around 18-20 moons <br> Gender: male <p> Apperence: short dark brown fur with white paws, yellow eyes and long claws <br> Personality: often likes to think things out before acting. But dont be fooled...hes a vicius fighter. <p> History: ill tell you if i feel like it... <br> Family: would rather not say <br> Mate/crush/kits: nope/would rather not say/nien <p> Clan: Ethereal <br> Rank: Extus <p> Themesong: Human by chistina perri <br> Signature: 2 star rating <p> Other: ask if you dare...
    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!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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.