"Zero O’Clock captures a familiar moment in life for many and describes how, like the song proclaims, if you’re going through a bad time, when the clock hits midnight, you can begin again."
–The Honey POP
"Geth’s voice carries the novel through our unprecedented recent history as she navigates grief, anger, and her own mental illnesses of anxiety, depression, and OCD during the stay-at-home orders and rising pandemic death toll."
School Library Journal
"Zero O'Clock is a beautiful and timely YA novel that is both heartbreaking and whip smart, a glimpse into the world of virtual friendship, classrooms, and pop stardom."
Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg, author of The Nine
"Thoughtful, provocative, and pounding with the fast-paced beat of a sharp-witted adolescent mind, Zero O'Clock is the story of a Jamaican-American teen girl at the early epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in New Rochelle, New York. C.J. Farley has created an irresistible heroine in Geth Montego. Simmering with justifiable anger at everything from the cancellation of her senior prom to racial injustices and police brutality, Geth manages to overcome grief, anxiety, and confusion to discover a new sense of herself and her ability to create change."
Karen Dukess, author of The Last Book Party
"Zero O'Clock seems to have a direct line into the mindset of a modern teenager. I enjoyed it immensely!"
Alex Wheatle, author of Cane Warriors
Critical praise for C.J. Farley's Around Harvard Square:
"[A] smart, satirical novel about surviving the racial and cultural tensions ratcheted up in the elite Harvard hothouse. Farley has created a marvelously engaging and diverse set of characters, at the center of which is a nerdy Jamaican American with a philosophical bent and his cohort of oddballs struggling to win a spot on Harvard's brainy humor magazine, which provides a springboard for Farley to dive into the ethics of comedy, among other subjects." —National Book Review
"Wry, sly, and ferociously funny, Around Harvard Square is not just the satire Ivy League college life deserves, but the one it's been waiting for."
—Marlon James, Man Booker Prize–winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings
"Around Harvard Square [is] C.J. Farley's fun novel about an exceptional Jamaican student-athlete facing class and race issues to get a spot on an elite Harvard University humor magazine."
—New York Daily News
"Brimming with humor and heart, Around Harvard Square is a delight."
—Andy Borowitz, creator of the New Yorker's "The Borowitz Report"
"This former [Harvard] Lampoon editor, journalist, and now satirical novelist, has lots of insight into the discrepancies around race and gender that remain present in the comedy industry."
—CityLine (ABC-TV, Boston)
"The first year of college can feel as dramatic as the first moon landing and somehow C.J. Farley also turns it into a painfully funny adventure. Around Harvard Square is a coming-of-age tale that blends J.D. Salinger's rueful tones with Paul Beatty's biting humor and becomes something entirely its own. I had so much fun running around with these kids, it felt like seeing old friends: laughing and crying and laughing some more."
—Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling
"This coming-of-age novel, set in the '90s, follows Jamaican-American Tosh Livingston and his group of friends—Lao, Meera, and Zippa—on their quest to land coveted spots on the staff of the Harvard Harpoon, Harvard's humor magazine . . . The characters' clever dialogue challenges privileged and stereotypical thinking." —Publishers Weekly
"In this throwback coming-of-age novel, an ensemble of freshmen on the margins struggle for self-definition amid the race and class complexities of Harvard . . . Through the whirlwind of their journey, they begin to question the purpose of jokes and the consequences of laughter—when it's not just about the joke, but also about who's making it and why (a significant, timely exploration as comedy culture today struggles to demarcate ethical boundaries) . . . The diverse ensemble of core characters defy and refuse reductive stereotypes . . . For those who would like to take a trip through the hallowed Harvard halls of the past, this goes out to you . . ." —Kirkus Reviews
"Farley, a Harvard alumnus himself, pulls no punches in lampooning the elitist, entitled culture that pervades the campuses of schools like Harvard. Many of his jabs are painfully spot on, and I applaud his efforts to address the experiences of the non-white, non-wealthy, and incredibly smart students who find themselves dropped into that kind of toxic atmosphere every fall." —MuggleNet
"C.J. Farley's Around Harvard Square is a witty and artful narrative of a society on the crossroads of change . . . A must read." —The Gleaner (Jamaica)
Gr 8 Up—Sixteen-year-old Geth Montego already had her world upended when her father died three years ago in a school shooting, and now it's happening again as COVID-19 takes over America. Geth loves Broadway and BTS, has two close friends, and is eagerly awaiting her college acceptance letters, but readers will be waiting to see how 2020 unfolds for the teen and her friends. A confrontation with the cops puts Geth in the center of the Black Lives Matter movement in her community, pushing her already fraught coming-of-age story into the limelight. Geth's voice carries the novel through our unprecedented recent history as she navigates grief, anger, and her own mental illnesses of anxiety, depression, and OCD during the stay-at-home orders and rising pandemic death toll. Her narration comes at the cost of some heavy exposition, which Farley breaks up epistolary-style with news reports, texts, emails, and even school essays. This novel juggles police violence, social justice, college stress, mental illness, friendship, romance, and the pandemic. A few of those topics get dropped before the finish line, but Geth's sense of humor helps smooth things over as they relive 2020 with her. Geth is Black, her best friends are Jewish Korean and Cuban American, and her mother's boyfriend is white. VERDICT While the novel doesn't deliver on all fronts, it could find a home with collections looking for quarantine fiction right now. An additional purchase.—Emmy Neal, Lake Forest Lib., IL
Already reeling from loss, a Black high school senior brings her OCD, anxiety, and depression into March 2020.
In the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, Gethsemane Montego is a musical-theater–loving, BTS-fangirling, 16-year-old senior at New Rochelle High School. She and her two best friends—Jewish Korean valedictorian Tovah and Cuban American star quarterback Diego—attend the same high school where Geth’s security guard father died tragically three years ago during a shooting. Geth resents how quickly her mother has moved on—with a White man, at that—but, as best they can, her friends help her manage the increases in her anxiety and compulsions as well as her stifling grief. Awaiting admission results from Columbia is an added stressor, but as the coronavirus case numbers quickly shoot up, Geth faces multiple burdens and traumas. Police violence, racial inequity, hyperpartisanship, immigration, economic anxieties, and a complicated coming-out story all pile on top of the pandemic’s hefty body count. Geth is a likable, smart Gen Z protagonist in this modern epistolary work that combines diary entries, text messages, news reports, emails, and English lit essays to immersive effect. Wringing so much content, so much hurt, into a YA novel is a tall order that yields very mixed results. Still, whether through cutting humor or disparate political perspectives, Farley offers readers undeniable value in this retelling of recent, unforgettable history.
Commendable ambition that may help readers look forward. (Fiction. 14-adult)