Zen and Xander Undone by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Zen and Xander are sisters—truly, madly, deeply sisters, and this is their last summer together.Zen is the "good" girl with a black belt in karate and a newfound penchant for kicking heads. Xander is a wild scientific genius with a self-destructive streak a light-year long. They have three things in common: they’re brown-eyed blondes, they’ve noticed the boy next door has turned into a hottie, and they miss their mom, who died almost a year ago.These sisters are surviving just fine—except Zen keeps getting into fights that are harder and harder to finish, while Xander spirals into a vortex of late-night parties, scary men, and drugs. What’s worse, Xander has scholarships to the most coveted universities in the country, but she’s about to ruin everything. Should Zen keep trying to protect Xander, or finally let her go?
After reading and enjoying Amy's debut Vibes, I was really excited to dive into Zen and Xander Undone. This was an overall really enjoyable and well written sophomore novel that will definitely appeal to a variety of readers. While Zen and Xander were not necessarily "likable" characters, they are definitely realistic and well developed. The plot was also very original and kept me reading, enough that I finished this book in about 2 hours.
To elaborate, Zen and Xander are two sisters dealing with their mother's tragic death in different ways. Both act out, but Xander does it a little too crazily. She gets involved with bad boys, drugs, and partying and nothing Zen says to her will bring back the Xander she remembers. Their father has turned into such a recluse it's up to Zen to try and protect her sister, but Zen is having troubles of her own. The relationship between Zen and Xander was fantastic, you could feel their connection and how important it was to Zen that Xander stay safe. Even though the story was told from Zen's POV, I could understand Xander really well, both characters were really well developed and readers got a good look into the life they were living now that their mother was gone.
The plot was engaging and filled with a variety of sub plots that kept the story moving. The main focus of the novel was on Zen and Xander's relationship, but there was also romance. Their sweet neighbor across the street that Xander was falling for, and Paul, a witty photographer, that was perfect for Zen. There was also the mystery surrounding their mother. She had written letters to them before she died that were being delivered to the sisters at random intervals by a mysterious someone. I loved this idea and it made their mother's feelings for the sisters that much more real.
This was an overall engaging and well written novel, and while it had it's flaws I overall really enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to reading more by Amy Kathleen Ryan in the future!
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
May 3, 2010/Houghton Mifflin Books for Children/224 Pages/Young Adult
Source: Publisher (ARC)
Other books by this author: Vibes