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In Zanesville    by Jo Ann Beard order for
In Zanesville
by Jo Ann Beard
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Jo Ann Beard's In Zanesville is one of the most true and honest coming-of-age novels I have ever read. Beard writes in a style that is totally captivating, while laying the realities of growing up clearly on the table.

The narrator is never identified, but there are a few hints that her first name, at least, is the same as the author's. She is a fourteen-year-old ninth-grader living in the industrial town of Zanesville, Illinois. In Zanesville chronicles her attempts at babysitting, falling in love, and becoming popular, all while trying to maintain her relationship with her best friend, Felicia.

Not only does Beard manage to write a narrative that is open, honest, and engaging, it is also more lighthearted than many similar books. Despite some mishaps and scares, things always turn out for the best, which is usually how life really is. The one detraction from the story is how dated it is. While a lot of what goes into growing up is timeless and universal, some of the things the protagonist of In Zanesville deals with are very germane to the 1970s.

While I, as an adult reader, understood a lot of the culture references that were before my time, I cannot imagine a teen reader doing the same. I still had a lot of trouble remembering that ninth-graders where the oldest in junior high, which then helps some of the events make more sense than thinking of today how ninth-graders are the youngest in high school.

Despite how rooted the story is in the 70s, In Zanesville is a remarkable coming-of-age tale that lilts along, a lot like real life does. Essayist Jo Ann Beard shows talent in writing fiction, and I hope this is not her only endeavor in the world of YA novels.

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