Review of Zia Erases the World

Zia Erases the World Zia Erases the World
by Bree Barton
Intermediate    Viking    256 pp.    g
4/22    978-0-593-35099-7    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-35100-0    $9.99

Sixth grader Zia Angelis is living with depression—the Shadoom, to Zia, who is fond of inventing portmanteau words. She doesn’t know how to explain what she’s feeling to her supportive mother, to her one-time friends, or to Alice Phan, the cool new girl at school. When her “grumpy Greek grandmother” moves in, Zia discovers a dictionary in her yiayia’s things that turns out to have magical powers: it’s erasable, and whenever Zia removes a word from the dictionary, that concept disappears from the world. Getting rid of peach seems like no big deal, but when Zia tries to combat the Shadoom by erasing fear and pain, the results are far messier. Discovering that her yiayia has always known the dictionary’s secret—and that all generations of her family have faced their own problems with depression—allows Zia to fix what the dictionary broke and deal with her mental health on her own terms. Barton fits a lot into the narrative—depression, dementia, economic inequality, Greek and Vietnamese heritages, the small indignities of school—without overwhelming the story. The characters are fully formed, and Zia’s eventual solution to the problem of the dictionary is unexpected but just right. The frequent invented words range from charming to cloying, depending on the reader’s sensibilities, but are unquestionably creative.

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Rettger
Sarah Rettger is an independent bookseller in Boston.

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