Rated Reads

Zazoo

by Richard Mosher

Rated: Mild

Zazoo is a 13-year-old girl who lives in a small village in France. There’s nothing really remarkable about that, except that Zazoo is Vietnamese; her Grand-Pierre (not her grandfather) took her from her country at the end of the war, when she was three. She doesn’t remember her birth home, and Grand-Pierre doesn’t talk about it. She’s been basically happy in France, but in this turbulent winter her life is about to turn upside down.

Zazoo is a quiet novel, poetically written, with spare language that evokes a strong sense of place. It jumps through time, giving us not only a portrait of Zazoo’s upbringing, but of the story behind the village and Grand-Pierre’s legendary stubbornness. For that reason, it becomes a bit of a war book; Grand-Pierre has a history in World War II, perhaps of good, perhaps not. The book reserves judgment: Zazoo is, in many ways, just collecting facts, piecing an old puzzle together. It’s delightfully complex and revels in shades of gray; Grand-Pierre is neither a villain nor a hero, but rather just human.

There is a bit of a love story, and honestly that’s the only thing that really bothered me about the book. Not the story per se: Zazoo and the boy on the bike, Marcus, develop a friendship while sending postcards back and forth, which evolves into love. What bothered me was the age of the characters: Zazoo is only 13, and while she’s labeled as precocious in the novel, that’s still a bit young to be taking up with a 16-year-old, even in 1980-something. I think, for that aspect of the novel to fully work for me, Zazoo should have been a bit older, even if it meant losing some of the innocence in the other aspects of the novel.

Even with that complaint, it was a surprisingly sweet story.

Rated: Mild for some disturbing passages about the Holocaust.

— Reviewed by Melissa Fox

Melissa Madsen Fox's blogging career began in 2004 when she started Book Nut. Reading, reviewing and book blogging have taken over what's left of her life after being a stay-at-home mom to four rambunctious daughters and wife to a slightly- absent-minded professor of political science.

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  • Zazoo
  • by Richard Mosher
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: