Wednesday, January 15, 2020

From the Desk of Zoe Washington

Marks, Janae. From the Desk of Zoe Washington
January 14th 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Zoe lives in Boston with her mother and stepfather. Her best friend, Trevor, lives next door, but as summer starts, Zoe is still smarting from comments she heard Trevor make to his sporty friends about her, so she doesn't want to hang out with him. Luckily, her mother has a friend who runs a bakery, and Zoe has the opportunity to spend time there honing her skills so she can try out for a kids' version of a baking reality show. Unfortunately, she spends more of her time folding boxes than scooping batter, since the other workers don't trust a kid. When a letter arrives for her and turns out to be from the father she has never met because he is in prison, Zoe is curious and writes back. Her father seems very nice, and she slowly gets some more information about the murder he is accused of committing. Sure that her father is telling the truth that he didn't do it, she starts to investigate some leads, going with Trevor to find a women who remembers meeting him when she posted an ad on Craigslist. Her grandmother has been helping Zoe get the letters, but eventually the two have to come clean to her mom. Armed with her evidence, the family goes to Project Innocence to try to get her father released.
Strengths: My readers will be very happy to find a book about an African American girl who is solidly middle class. I've been looking for books like this for years, and have been glad to see titles like Love Like Sky, Blended, and Some Places More than Others that don't take place in the inner city. Baking books do fairly well, so readers will enjoy trying out some of Zoe's recipes for Froot Loop cupcakes, and the details about having a parent in prison are thought provoking.
Weaknesses: Several things seemed far fetched to me, although they won't to younger readers. There are a lot more boy-girl best friends in books than in real life, the internship at the bakery seemed unlikely, although the way Zoe was received was realistic. It was surprising that the grandmother helped her keep information from her parents, and that Zoe has a lot of luck in her investigations.
What I really think: This has a fantastic cover, so I would purchase it just for that. It's a solid story, and I'll be looking forward to seeing what else Ms. Marks writes, but it wasn't as gripping as Front Desk. (The publisher's description compares it to this.)
Ms. Yingling

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