Blues for Zoey
by Robert Paul Weston
Release Date: January 28th, 2014
2014 Razorbill Canada
Softcover Edition; 288 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Young Adult
Source: Review copy from publisher
4 / 5 Stars
Kaz Barrett isn’t
saving for college. Every penny he earns working at the sketchy
Sit’N’Spin Laundromat is for his mother. He plans to send her to a
top-notch (and very expensive) sleep clinic in New York. His mother
suffers from an extremely rare neurological disorder that causes her to
fall asleep for days at a time. Both he and his kid sister, Nomi, worry
that one day, maybe tomorrow, their mother will fall asleep and never
At the start of summer, everything seems on track. Come
September, Kaz will have earned all he needs and more. However, when
anarchic, pink-haired Zoey walks past the laundromat’s window, Kaz’s
ordered life begins spinning out of control. Smart, mysterious, and full
of music, Zoey is unlike anyone Kaz has met, but there’s another side
to her that he can’t quite figure out.
When he goes looking for
answers, he finds a whirlwind of lies, half-truths, and violence. And in
the eye of the storm, he’ll discover that you really can’t con an
Blues for Zoey is one of those books that is pretty honest, rather gritty, and has an ending that I rather liked as it doesn't cater to the romantic fairytale endings, but still leaves you feeling rather hopeful for the characters, that they will make it through it all, despite everything that has happened to to them. I had the pleasure of reading Weston's Dust City a few years ago, and this book still has his trademark gritty style that I really liked in Dust City, which makes the book so interesting to read.
Kaz is quite a likeable character, very responsible, who is saving money for his ill mother to go to a clinic in New York to try a new form of treatment for a rare neurological disease. Just shy of $2000 towards his goal of $12 000, he is in limbo in his life as his old girlfriend dumped him and the girl he has his eye on doesn't even know he exists. And suddenly, this strange, appealing girl enters his life. Through her eyes, he begins to see the town he lives in in a new light, one that can be rather gritty and dangerous. He learns that perhaps the man he works for is not actually 'cool', but may be laundering money or involved in other illegal activities and suddenly his own morals are put to the test as he begins searching premises and other things, something he would never have done without Zoey's subliminal messages. Naturally, he chose to do these things on his own and has to face the consequences of his own actions, something he does quite well and maturely, but it makes one wonder if Kaz would have stepped over the line if Zoey had never stepped into his life.
Zoey herself is quite a contrast. She appeared to be the rebellious teen, but contradictory ideas and background stories confused Kaz and he was often left wondering who exactly this Zoey person was. The fact that he never really grew overly suspicious of her behaviour, even after several pretty obvious events, made you realize how naive Kaz really was. He never really saw the bad side to people, and while that can be a great thing, I also think that could be a rather bad thing too. I also felt quite frustrated as I didn't really feel like I got to know enough about Zoey's background to be satisfied, felt quite like Kaz did whenever he asked her questions, but perhaps the author intended it to be that way, in order for us to understand how Kaz felt.
The plot was basically about honesty and staying true to ourselves. As we grow up and realize the world is not a nice rosy shade of pink, we need to delve through the lies and deceit and try to define what is truth and what are lies. It can be a difficult road to travel, especially for someone like Kaz who is basically a really nice guy, who would help anyone in difficulty, which is why I think he was so attracted to Zoey in the first place. I think he thought she was someone who looked somewhat lost, carrying around this big musical instrument, and he thought he could help her. Help her how, I'm not really sure, and I don't even think Kaz could have answered that himself. He was also in limbo and she entered his life at that perfect moment, which I'm sure many of us have experienced ourselves. Personally, I thought the author did a great job at showing Kaz's strengths and weaknesses through his writing. And the author's writing style is one of the things I like best about this book, too. It's clear, sharp, with that no-nonsense style that I like.
There was some sexuality involved in this novel, but I thought it was handled quite well. I realize some parents might have a hard time with the sexuality in this novel, but it was honest and talked about how uncomfortable the first time could be. And the use of condoms was brought up too, so safe-sex all the way. Please pardon the pun, it was unintentional!!
Blues for Zoey was an interesting story that saw the slow coming-of-age for Kaz and the realization that life has a much more gritty side to it, even more than having a parent die of a heart attack, and you need to be wary and suspicious, without giving up the joy that life offers every day. It can be a fine line to walk and Kaz was slowly learning how to walk that line, be open with his family and friends, but be true to himself; there were some tough lessons to learn. I would recommend this novel to anyone who is interesting in reading about a life-changing moment that defines us and shapes our future, and who we are.