Every reader has his or her guilty pleasures. One of mine is young adult novels.
Or should I say young adult novels as audio books to listen to while I’m working out (in this case, running). In many cases, young adult novels serve as a solid distraction as the miles go by without demanding that I hang on every word and stop paying attention to my pace or things coming up ahead like mud, vehicles, fellow runners or roaming animals.*
So imagine my surprise when I downloaded the audio version of Saving Zoe to my iPod and the novel not only toyed with my expectations but actually exceeded them. It was entertaining enough that not only did I listen while exercising, but I worked in other times to listen to the story, hooked in by the narrator and the story itself.
As the story begins, Echo fully admits that she’s stuck in the stages of grief because of what happened to her older sister, Zoe, a year before. As her family tries to pick up the pieces of their lives with Zoe gone, Echo isn’t sure how to relate to anyone anymore, her mother is on “happy pills” and her father is burying his grief by working too much. Entering high school should be a new and exciting time for Echo, but the specter of her older sister hangs above everything and everyone that Echo comes into contact with.
Enter Marc, the ex-boyfriend of her sister. On the night Zoe vanished, she left her backpack with Marc, including her diary. While Marc turned the backpack over to the authorities, he kept the diary and gives it to Echo for her birthday, hoping she will get to know who her sister really was in the months and weeks leading up to her disappearance.
It’s from the reading of this diary that the novel gets its title. It’s the first of several times in the story that Noel plays with our perceptions and expectations. Echo decides to parcel out the diary in bits to herself, saving the diary instead of reading it all in one sitting.
The answers of what happened to Zoe and how she met her fate quite honestly surprised me. As did the impact that Noel allows the events to have on her characters. As I said before, the novel surprised me on a lot of levels.
A lot of the story’s success comes from the first person narration of Echo. The name is well chosen and reflects a lot of how Echo perceives herself in the story.
In short, this one surprised me in a good way. I may have to see what other novels Noel has available in audio format and have another one work its way onto my iPod soon.