The Weight of Zero

Karen Fortunati


May 2018

$17.99 AU

388p pb

ISBN: 978-1101938928

fp October 2016

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from Penguin Random House

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Pulaski knows Zero is coming for her. Zero, the devastating depression born of Catherine’s bipolar disorder, almost triumphed once; that was her first suicide attempt.

Being bipolar is forever. It never goes away. The med du jour might work right now, but Zero will be back for her. It’s only a matter of time.

And so, in an old ballet-shoe box, Catherine stockpiles medications, preparing to take her own life before Zero can inflict its living death on her again. Before she goes, though, she starts a short bucket list.

The bucket list, the support of her family, new friends, and a new course of treatment all begin to lessen Catherine’s sense of isolation. The problem is, her plan is already in place, and has been for so long that she might not be able to see a future beyond it.

This is a story of loss and grief and hope, and how some of the many shapes of love—maternal, romantic, and platonic—affect a young woman’s struggle with mental illness and the stigma of treatment.

The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati is a beautifully written young adult fiction novel that deals with several common mental health problems young people may face. I found this an incredibly interesting read, as the main character, Cath, has bipolar disorder. Prior to reading the novel, I did not know very much about the disorder, as it is not discussed as often as other conditions, like anxiety or depression. I really enjoyed the scenes in which Cath attended group therapy, and how Fortunati was able to show the great impact mental illnesses can have on a young person’s life. I also liked how the author demonstrated through Cath and her friend Kristal that a mental illness may not ever completely leave you, but it is possible to still have a future filled with joy and love.

 I think this novel would most appeal to young adults and teenagers, especially those with an interest in fictional stories that deal with issues in real life, such as mental illnesses and disorders.

Orli, age 14

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