Book Reviews

Zenn Diagram

Hey Guys! At the time I am writing this, I just got back from a hectic weekend. A very hectic weekend. Being on a gap year means I get to do really cool stuff, like attend TEDxMidAtlantic!!! One speaker came up with the hypothesis for her research on Cancer metastasis when she was only twenty! Another girl organized her entire town in protest of environmental pollution! I had a wonderful time listening to them.

Next in the saga, I went straight to my friend’s birthday party. Also, the metro was under construction… It was an uproarious time, but lets just say I’m glad to be home writing this review.

I have a lot of feelings about Zenn Diagram.

Eva Walker is a senior in high school, math genius, and awesome big sister. She was also born with the ability to read minds… Well, not exactly and not as fun.

Whenever she touches someone she can see their past and all their pain in a fractal, a repeating geometric pattern. She gets these fractals everywhere, from touching calculators and seeing where the user has been frustrated with math to the carefree, golden fractals of children.

Zenn appears in her life all at once. She starts out as his trig tutor, only to find he is the only person she cannot read (twilight anyone?). He works three jobs. Eva takes care of her quadruplet younger siblings. Together, they make for one hell of an awkward teenage love story.

Here’s my problem.

Zenn Diagram starts out with fourteen pages of “I’m not like other girls” drivel. If you were thinking Eva is not like other girls because she can read minds, then you were wrong. She is apparently the only unique female in her school because she likes math instead of make up, hanging out in the local coffee shop instead of shopping. This is ironic because she spends an approximately 200 page book fawning over a half decent guy because he has nice hands.

This trope of performative superiority is a problem on two levels. Firstly, by asserting her personality as better than the typical woman, Eva insinuates that something is wrong with being an average woman. Secondly, it is artificial.

Sometimes you read main characters that wiggle their way into your soul. Unfortunately, I despised Eva. She is whiny, obsessive, boy-crazy, and misogynistic. Her narrative voice is shallow and she gives teenagers a bad name.

For all the talk of her intelligence, there is very little about her not drawn from an anti-social teenage stereotype. She purposefully undermines the healthy relationship she has with her parents. She ignores her college applications for a boy.

Eva Walker is a sexist woman and a hypocrite.

The redeeming quality of the book that saves it from its frankly horrible protagonist is Zenn. He is a brilliant, sympathetic, persistant, and genuine character. He works three jobs in the cold to support his alcoholic mother. He is stubbornly kind even though his father just got out of prison. He would have made an astoundingly more complex, vibrant protagonist than Ms. Walker. Frankly, she doesn’t deserve him.

Zenn Diagram is great for a read that engages less than 10% of your attention. It’s a fluff piece with one very good character. The writing is simple and fast to read. For an hour when you’re bored waiting for the rain to stop, this is a great decision. I will admit, for TED conference recovery, it works pretty well.

Happy Reading!

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