In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard is historical fiction in that it takes place in Illinois in the 1970s, and that the references to TV shows, food obsessions (Jello; pizza delivery as a rare treat and a prank to pull on unsuspecting neighbors), and clothing are totally 1970s. But that’s where it ends, because the interactions between our fourteen year-old (unnamed?) narrator (how am I only just now realizing this…) and her friends, family, and strangers are completely typical of most teenagers, regardless of era.Beard wrote a totally authentic voice, at times annoying and whiny, at other times very mature and thoughtful. (Like many a teenagers’ thoughts.)
I initially wanted to stop listening to the audiobook. I was annoyed by the reader’s voice, tone, and accents. They didn’t sound authentic, in fact, the accents she chose for certain characters sounded forced (except the mother’s…that voice was spot-on perfect and I loved every chapter she was in). But I eventually looked past it because the book moved quickly enough for me not to be annoyed for too long.
The book is basically the year-long story of the narrator’s life, which includes a bathroom trashcan fire while babysitting the town heathens, buying super-stylish clothes on law-away so people would forget how unremarkable and plain she was, and going through puberty and all of the weird changes (mentally and physically) that go along with it. What I truly loved about the narrator was that no matter how weird or unsure she felt, she was totally cool with herself. She understood she wasn’t a cute girl, and didn’t even mind her status as “the sidekick”. She stood up to a boy, and for herself, and for those reasons, I fell in love with our nameless girl.
I will recommend this book to…I don’t know who. I doubt teen girls would love it. It’s not an exciting story, but the plot keeps moving enough to keep a reader’s interest. And the insight into 1970s teenage-dom is rather fascinating. I think my mom might enjoy it, but I can’t say for sure. Maybe that’s how I’ll recommend this book to people, “I think you’ll love it! Or maybe not…” I know I liked it.