ARC Review: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Deb Biancotti, and Margo Lanagan

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: Zeroes
author: Scott Westerfeld, Deb Biancotti, Margo Lanagan
pages: 546
format: Paperback
isbn/asin: 978-1481443364
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 4/5 (from hated to loved) or 7/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (duh), The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, that TV show Misfits, and other sort of bumbling but endearing superheroes.
Don’t call them heroes.

But these six Californian teens have powers that set them apart. They can do stuff ordinary people can’t.

Take Ethan, a.k.a. Scam. He’s got a voice inside him that’ll say whatever you want to hear, whether it’s true or not. Which is handy, except when it isn’t—like when the voice starts gabbing in the middle of a bank robbery. The only people who can help are the other Zeroes, who aren’t exactly best friends these days.

Enter Nate, a.k.a. Bellwether, the group’s “glorious leader.” After Scam’s SOS, he pulls the scattered Zeroes back together. But when the rescue blows up in their faces, the Zeroes find themselves propelled into whirlwind encounters with ever more dangerous criminals. And at the heart of the chaos they find Kelsie, who can take a crowd in the palm of her hand and tame it or let it loose as she pleases.

Filled with high-stakes action and drama, Zeroes unites three powerhouse authors for the opening installment of a thrilling new series.

in depth

1.  Zeroes is a fun, frivolous X-men update where the heroes aren't so heroic--and aren't even sure what they're doing half the time.  It's a story about the late millennials, the children of 2000 who are linked by their strange abilities.  But even though they call themselves Zeroes and plan for "missions," it's an abstract dream until Scam, estranged from the group, insinuates himself into a bank robbery and puts a target on his head.  Despite the fallout from the Zeroes breakup over the summer, "glorious leader" Bellwether pulls the gang back together to protect Scam and save their secrets.  Their tangles with police, the mafia, the drug underworld, and their own ambitions made for a fun thriller.  

2.  But the characters are really the heart of this book.  And each character is rich and unique, flawed and a little lost.  Scam is adorably oblivious, a little selfish but eager to prove his worth.  Bellwhether is the asshole that you have to love because he's your asshole--ambitious, power-hungry, a little jerky to Scam, but soft where it counts.  Flicker is insanely kind to a fault and fiercely independent.  Anon is pretty much the most adorable tragic puppy, forgotten by everyone.  Crash is intense, driven, and struggling to do the right thing.  And Mob is a lost flower child, mistrustful but thirsty for real connection.  Once you finish, it's like having a new family.  

3.  With six perspectives, you'd expect to be overwhelmed.  Instead, the POVs meld fluidly together, illuminating the personal narrative of each individual while also seamlessly connecting into one story.  I loved that you could get inside each character's head, get to know them more intimately.  A perfect representation about how separate they are, but also together.  It also made the plot fast-faced and exciting, because there was also something going on, from chase scenes and mafia baddies to tender moments and family feuds.   There were some iffy plot points so it's not quite a 5, but it's still super enjoyable.  It's as much about these kids growing up as it is about their powers. 

4.  Which are freaking awesome, by the way.  Each teen has a power that's social.  Bellwhether's charisma and power of suggestion becomes dictator-powerful in a crowd.  Flicker can see through others' eyes; in a crowd, she's omniscient.  Scam's Voice isn't crowd-based, but it tells you what you need to hear to get what Scam wants.  Anon is forgettable; in a crowd, he's invisible.  Mob can change a crowd's emotions and sway them to her purpose.  The only one who didn't fit was Crash, who can basically EMP technology.  Her power annoyed me because it didn't fit with the theme and felt more like a convenient plot device.  

5. These powers are so different from what you see in typical superhero stuff (you know, telekinesis and mind-reading) and brought up all sorts of issues you'd never think of.  Yeah, being invisible is great, but what happens when your own family forgets you?  How do you fall in love?  How can you be Bellwhether's friend when you know he could be playing you?  What happens when Scam's voice says something he can't back up?  It was really cool to see the kind of problems these things caused for the Zeroes, how they grappled with them, how they learned to bend their weaknesses to their advantage.  

6.  And most of all, it was exciting to see the relationships forming and changing between them.  Flicker's dedication to remembering Anon.  Scam's guilty devotion to helping Mob.  Bellwhether's desperate clinging to his followers (and super jerky treatment of Scam, which annoyed me).  Crash's sense of duty to her mother.  Mob's ambivalence towards her lowlife but well-meaning father.  The struggles to forgive and to trust when things happen that can't be undone, things that cause real, permanent tragedies.  It's at once an intense, poignant, and fun read that has me clawing for the sequel.  

I swear, this review was going to be short... 

in a sentence

Zeroes takes the superhero narrative and turns it into an exploration of the power of people to affect and challenge each other--with a really exciting plot about getting untangled from some dangerous characters.  


will i read this author again?  For absolutely sure, all of them.    
will i continue the series?  Yes!  Writing this review has just made me want it even more.  

Note: I received this copy in exchange for an honest review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected by stated opinions.


  1. Wow! This sounds really cool!! Kind of reminds me of the show Misfits. Have you ever seen it? I like that the powers are social! Very cool!
    Sincerely, Sara

    1. I haven't, but my best friend loves it so I thought of it when I was writing the review. I definitely want to watch it someday. I hope you enjoy it!