Zoe Bennett feels lost at her fancy private school.
She's not the star drama queen like her sister, or a brainiac math genius like her brother. Luckily her best friend, Dara, is just as content as Zoe is to stay in the shadows or is she? When Dara gets a part in the school musical, Zoe feels abandoned. What's worse, Zoe's practically being stalked by the weird new kid, Lucas. Then Lucas accidentally drops his notebook and Zoe finds it's written in symbols and numbers it's complete gibberish. Yet she sees her name in there, plain as day. Now Lucas is telling her she's a natural code-reading genius or some kind of mental freak.
As Zoe's daydreaming lands her in trouble at school, anonymous notes start to appear in students' lockers, and Zoe is the number one suspect. Solving word puzzles may come easily to her, but now there's more at stake will Zoe be able to solve her way out of this?
With plenty of wit and insight, Barbara Dee has created this fresh, funny story of a girl who discovers that fitting in sometimes means standing out.
About the Author
Barbara Dee is the author of several middle grade novels including Maybe He Just Likes You, Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed. Her books have received several starred reviews and been included on many best-of lists, including the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten, the Chicago Public Library Best of the Best, and the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People. Star-Crossed was also a Goodreads Choice Awards finalist. Barbara is one of the founders of the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival. She lives with her family, including a naughty cat named Luna and a sweet rescue hound dog named Ripley, in Westchester County, New York.
Read an Excerpt
At first Zoe didn't notice that the boy at the end of the table was writing down every word she said.
She barely noticed him at all, the way his blond hair flopped into his face as he sat hunched over what looked like a small notebook. Probably he was just some applicant taking notes about the lunchroom: "Burgers at the Lorna Hubbard School extremely gross," or something brilliant like that.
And anyway, why would Zoe pay attention to some kid she didn't even know, when she was finally, after an endless morning, getting to see her best friend, Dara Grosbard? The only class they had together this year was gym, and that didn't even count, because you had to spend the whole time dodging basketballs or jogging breathlessly around the track. So the one place they could talk was the ear-splitting Hubbard lunchroom, where you really had to concentrate to have a meaningful conver-sation.
"God, Zoe, this is absolutely disgusting," Dara was saying as she chomped on a chili dog. "You sure you don't want a bite?"
"Positive," Zoe answered. She opened her bag of Lay's potato chips and dumped them onto her tray. Usually there were twelve chips per bag; if she did it just right, she could fit all twelve into her tuna fish sandwich. For crunch, she used to explain to horrified onlookers. Of course, by now everybody knew all about Zoe's sandwich weirdness and didn't even ask.
"So how was Chinese today?" Zoe said, poking in the last of her chips. "Did he make you talk?"
"He always makes us talk. I should have taken a normal language, like French."
"French? You think French is normal?"
"Okay, maybe not," Dara agreed. "But if I took French, at least we'd be together for one measly class besides gym. Sigh."
Zoe smiled. Dara was always saying things like "sigh" and "gasp," as if she were attaching smiley faces, or frownies, to all her sentences. But at least that way you knew what she was feeling, Zoe thought as she took a crunchy bite of sandwich, then a cooling sip of chocolate milk.
Suddenly she felt a light poke from behind.
"Are these seats taken?"
She turned her head. Surprisingly, it was Allegra Hillenbrand, who insisted on being called Leg, along with her bodyguard, Paloma Farrelly. They were both really good dancers, two of the best in Hubbard Middle Division.
"No, they're free," Dara was saying nicely. "If you can squeeze in."
Zoe gave Dara a look that meant, Do we have to? But either Dara didn't notice or else she didn't think she had a choice. She pushed aside her chili dog and slid over to make room, so that Leg and Paloma wouldn't have to sit too close to the unknown boy with the notebook.
Leg smiled at Dara. "So," she said. "Have you officially signed up yet?"
"Signed up for what?" Zoe asked. Out of the corner of her eye she could see the boy turn a page in his notebook and write something quickly.
"Nothing," Dara said. "It's stupid, Zoe."
"No, it's not. It's brilliant," Leg insisted.
Zoe glanced at Dara. "What is?"
"Nothing," Dara said again. Her gray-blue eyes narrowed in embarrassment. "Leg thinks I should try out for the musical."
"The musical?" Zoe said. "You want to?"
"I'm not sure." Dara nibbled on her thumbnail. "Maybe."
"Oh, you're totally sure, Dara," Leg said. "You said so right before Chinese." She flipped her shiny chestnut hair over one shoulder, her gold hoop earrings catching the light. "Besides, why go to an amazing school like Hubbard if you don't take advantage, blah blah blah. You should encourage her, Zoe."
"Do you want to?" Zoe repeated, trying to ignore Leg. "Because nobody should force you, Dara."
"Nobody is," said Paloma.
"Sigh," Dara said. "The thing is, Zoe, I think I might want to try out, but I'm terrified. You know what Izzy always says."
Zoe nodded. Zoe's sixteen-year-old sister, Isadora, was the star of almost every Hubbard production, but even she always complained about tryouts. She called them cutthroat, and how could they not be, really, with all the gifted and talented kids strutting around this "amazing" school? And the thing was, Dara was shy talented but shy. And also tiny: not the best combination, especially when you were expected to stand onstage and sing into a blaring microphone.
Poor Dara, Zoe thought. She doesn't know what she's in for.
Paloma laughed. "Well, look at it this way, Dara. You probably won't even get a part, so there's nothing to worry about, right?"
"You shouldn't say that," Zoe said, her dark eyes flashing. "Dara's actually an incredible singer. If she wants a part, she'll get one."
"Well, yeah, Zoe. Obviously."
"So if it's obvious, Paloma, you shouldn't tease her like that."
"It was just a joke," Dara said gently. "Never mind, Zoe."
Zoe realized then that all three girls were looking at her, and Paloma was smiling. She felt like a complete moron, all of a sudden.
"Okay, then," Leg said finally. "I guess our work here is done. See you later, Dara." Then she and Paloma walked away, taking dramatic turned-out steps, as if to remind everyone in the lunchroom that they were both really good dancers.
Zoe took a small bite of her tuna-and-potato-chip sandwich. "You want me to come with you to tryouts?" she asked.
"Oh, definitely not," Dara said. "You hate all that stuff, Zoe. It would make you crazy to sit there. Besides, we'd probably just look at each other and start laughing hysterically." She reached over and took a sip of Zoe's chocolate milk. "I'll just meet you afterward, okay? If you don't mind waiting a tiny bit."
"Of course I don't mind," Zoe said, surprised this was even a question. "Why would I?" Suddenly she remembered something. "I've got Isaac's after school today. I really can't be late."
"Oh, you won't be," Dara promised. "I'll be like ten or fifteen minutes."
Well, ten or fifteen minutes probably won't make much of a difference, Zoe thought. And even if Dara refused to come inside, they'd have the walk over together. And of course they'd have the walk back to Zoe's.
"Okay, great," she said cheerfully. "I'll meet you in the lobby."
And then a strange thing happened. The blond floppy-haired boy at the end of the table looked right into Zoe's eyes, the very second she finished speaking. Then he stuffed his notebook into his pocket and walked rapidly out of the cafeteria.
And Zoe couldn't say why, but she knew right then that he'd been eavesdropping on the entire conversation. And possibly worse than that: possibly writing it all down in that little spiral notebook, although of course at that point she didn't have any proof.
Copyright © 2009 by Barbara Dee
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Just like her first book, Barbra Dee has done an outstanding job. I couldn't put the book down. The reading level was perfect, not too hard, not too easy, and I really enjoyed figuring out the codes. The characters were absorbing and fun. I would totally recommend it!
I love novels that have really compelling plots and characters and teach me something I didn't know as well. That must be why I loved Solving Zoe. I found myself caring about the characters, and I really wanted to know how the book would end. At the same time, I didn't know anything about codes before I started reading this book, and I enjoyed learning about a subject that was totally new to me. I thought this novel was really fresh and innovative, and I think you'd enjoy it too. I think this book might end up becoming a quirky modern classic, like Harriet The Spy, and I strongly recommend that you give it a try.
Zoe is eleven years old and has been going to the same school all of her life, Hubbard School.
This school isn't a regular school, but one for extraordinary students. Zoe's older sister and brother both go there, as well. Her sister is an amazing actress/singer and her brother is a math champion. Ever her little brother, Spencer, goes to pre-school there.
Zoe is having problems figuring out how she fits into the scheme of things at the school. Her grades are slipping and she and her best friend, Dara, are growing apart. Enter in a new student named Lucas. Lucas is weird, but he's also a code-reading genius. He takes a liking to Zoe and through some time spent together, Zoe finds out that she has a
code-reading gift, too.
I really loved this story about growing up and finding where you belong. I actually believe that we go through this process many times in our lives. Even when you get older you may find yourself at loose ends and have to find yourself all over again. I have been going through that process recently since I now have an empty nest.
Anyway, this story is great. The characters are very lovable and you wish they were your friends. Zoe's family is supportive and loving but can be annoying also, especially the two brothers. I found that to be very realistic.
If you want a good book that will both interest you and entertain you, then pick up SOLVING ZOE by Barbara Dee.
I think that this book was a great book. It talks about relationships with friends from both genders. It wasn't the best book though. There is a lot of learning in it from having a good friend relationship go into the garbage and reading cipher, Though reading about how to read cipher is cool , you wouldn't expect this from this book.
Zoe's sixth-grade year at a Brooklyn school for gifted students is marked by changing relationships with her fellow students and teachers, recognition of her talent for cryptography, and a greater awareness of her passion.
This has a theme similar to so many I have recently read. Zoe starts middle school and realizes things change. Boys become interested in girls. What made this book so different from my other recent reads is that Zoe loves breaking codes. This was an okay book for me but not something I would re-read. It was well written but not a topic I could really sink my teeth into. I will recommend this to my ESOL class because we just finished a couple of stories that involved codes.
BUY IT ITS SO GOOD I READ IT LIKE TWO YEARS AGO AND IT STILL BURNS FEASH IN MY MIND!
"Solving Zoe" is a very well put together book. It is about a sixth-grade girl attending a school for gifted children, just like her siblings. But where her older sister Isadora and her younger brother Spencer are actors and her older brother Malcom is a math whiz, Zoe can't seem to find a talent. Her life is turned around when her best friend, Dara, begins hanging out with popular girls and a new boy named Lucas shows up and begins claiming she has code-reading potential. Now notes are appearing in the popular kis's lockers... and Zoe is their prime suspect.
THE BEST BOOK EVER!!!!!!!!!!¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿!!!!!!!!!!¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿ a must read im hoping she will write a sequal
Go privit skools
great bookkkkk read it
Go privet schools : p
Zoe is very creative in almost anything she does! From coming up with a new way to remember your colors in math class or trying to take care of and have fun with reptiles living in three bedroooms! Zoe Bennett is sure to delight you with a great tween read story! Another great one! Keep up the awesome work!!!:-$ P.s. this is a braces sign! Go metal mouths!!:-$ Hahahahahahaha!!!!