The Weight of Zero is a coming of age tale about a teenager struggling with her recent diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Catherine, recovering from a suicide attempt, is convinced that being bipolar equals never being able to have a full life. “Zero,” the feeling of utter despair and the desire to kill herself, is always just behind her, ready to strike. She is afraid to form attachments – Her childhood friends fled when she told them the truth about herself, and she’s sure everyone else will do the same.
With the current hoopla over books that depict teen suicide, this is an excellent choice for several reasons: It starts with a quote from Otto Frank: “Most parents don’t, really, know their children.” This is an important one. It reminds adult readers that you simply cannot always see the signs of trouble in your children. (And children do, sometimes, lie to their parents in an attempt to protect them.)
The main character, Catherine, initially resists the help of adults and her peers in group therapy, but eventually comes to see the benefit of honesty and participation in life.
Author Fortunati shows that everyone you meet is dealing with some kind of pain. Being bipolar or suicidal does not make you special or exempt you from caring about those around you.
Anything you didn’t like about it? While most of the book is compellingly paced, the ending feels a little rushed, the resolution a little easy.
I would recommend it to teenagers interested in reading about depression and friendships. It also is a good read for adults trying to understand the depressed or anxious young people in their lives. Parents may want to read this as an avenue towards understanding that they are not always at fault when a child has a psychiatric diagnosis.
This is a good selection for libraries with room for a broad collection. As a sad and thoughtful book, it may not pick up momentum and become a blockbuster; you may night see high circulation numbers. However, Fortunati has crafted real-feeling characters for whom the reader will come to care. Those who pick this up will enjoy ad be moved by this read. Clinical depression and anxiety are not especially common topics for YA novels and, if your library has space, it would be great to have this one on hand for just the right reader.
Teen librarians who want to have a title “in their back pocket” to readily share with a young patron should read this one.