Zen and Gone

Emily France. Soho Teen, $18.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-61695-857-2
In this memorable, Zen Buddhist-centric novel, 17-year-old Essa, a native of Boulder, Colo., must care for her little sister, Puck, because their perpetually high-on-marijuana mother refuses to. Oliver, a recent transplant to Boulder, is also close to his younger sister, Lilly, and is grieving over how Lilly’s serious mental illness has affected their relationship and family. Over the course of slow, intense, and reflective alternating chapters, Essa and Oliver meet, fall in love, and face tremendous hardship with the awe-inducing beauty of the Colorado wilderness as a backdrop. France’s prose is dense with ideas and practices related to Zen Buddhism and thoughtful about how these practices apply to Essa’s thoughts and life struggles. France also shows her expertise in camping and survival in the wilderness, as Essa and Oliver become lost in the mountains during a storm and must fight for their lives—and Puck’s. Essa’s struggles with her irresponsible, absentee mother are fierce and poignant, as are Oliver’s in response to his sister’s schizophrenia. This is a beautiful, gentle, contemplative story certain to both fascinate and educate readers about a new way of encountering the world and all the challenges within it. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jennifer Unter, Unter Agency. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/07/2018
Release date: 07/03/2018
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