Superpowered Teens Focus of Multi-Climactic ZEROES

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Scott Westerfeld Zeroes Simon Schuster Critical Blast

When I first started reading comic books, one of my favorite titles was TEEN TITANS. Not because they were the sidekicks of the heroes, or even that they were close to my own age, but that they were kids with powers, and were prone to getting into (and reacting to) situations the way kids would react. There was impetuousness, recklessness, infighting, crushes, jealousies, and the formation of lifelong friendships.

So when I learned that UGLIES writer Scott Westerfeld (joined by Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti) had released a new book, and that this book was about teenagers with superpowers, how could I possibley resist? Hence, this review of ZEROES -- they're like heroes, only not.

The Zeroes aren't even a group; at least, not yet. There are five of them total: Ethan, known as Scam because he has another voice in him that knows things and says exactly what someone else wants to hear to get him out of trouble; Chizara, called Crash because being near electronics is painful to her and she lashes out by making them stop working; Riley, aka Flicker, who is blind but can see through the eyes of others; and Nate, the leader of the group, who calls himself Bellwether because of his ability to focus a group onto a singular mission.

Oh, and there's Thibault, who uses the alias Anonymous, because when he leaves the room you forget he even exists.

The Zeroes are unaware of anyone else in the world having any kind of superpowers. Nate's plan is to train the group on special missions so that they can hone their powers. But one slip of the tongue caused a rift in the group that seemed as if it would never heal. And then Scam, wanting only a ride home, manages to land himself in the middle of a bank robbery where things go horribly wrong. This robbery is connected to a sixth teen with powers, Kelsie, who can amp up the natural feeling of a crowd and amplify it, change it, and direct it. That's how she gets the name Mob.

A sixth zero is just the thing Bellwether has been hoping to find, for reasons that you'll have to read the book to understand; and some of the Zeroes are forced to wonder whether or not having a sixth is a good thing or something to be forcefully resisted.

About halfway through ZEROES, you reach a point where you're sure the main conflict has been resolved. And that's when the writers ratchet things up another level. It turns out that ZEROES is a multi-climactic hookup of a book that takes your hand and leads you through a rave you hope never ends. If this is the opening to a series, then all the better, because I'd like a long-term relationship with this one.

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0