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ZEN & XANDER UNDONE by Amy Kathleen Ryan Kirkus Star

ZEN & XANDER UNDONE

By Amy Kathleen Ryan

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: May 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-547-06248-8
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Before Zen and Xander’s mom Marie died, she Made Important Arrangements. The girls receive loving, chatty, spookily appropriate advice-filled letters from her on important dates, and she pre-purchased a perfect prom dress for normally dance-eschewing Zen. Sadly and realistically, no amount of careful planning could prevent Zen, Xander and their dad, James, from losing themselves in grief, so one year after Marie’s funeral, James still wallows in the basement, Zen’s barely controlled anger finds a dangerous outlet in her black-belt skills and Xander loses herself in drink, drugs and sex. Burning curiosity (tinged with dread) about their mother’s long-ago relationship with a graduate-school professor drags the girls out of their funk and pushes them to see Marie as a fully three-dimensional person: loving, brilliant, flawed and forgiven. As their view of Marie develops, so does their understanding of themselves without her, rendering what could be clichéd and dull instead touching, urgent and involving. Zen’s frank narration—full of longing and hard-won insight—draws readers in and won’t let go. (Fiction. YA)