Spill Zone, Book 1

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Spill Zone, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Strong female hero drives exciting sci-fi horror thriller.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Spill Zone is set in Poughkeepsie, New York, after parts of it has been catastrophically altered. The graphic novel features an especially strong female main character.

Positive Messages

Family members should look out for each other during times of trouble. It's better to accept help from friends than always to struggle on your own.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character, Addison, is a tough-minded survivor of a mysterious disaster. Brave and resourceful but sometimes overconfident, she enters the Spill Zone to take photos and earn enough to support herself and her mostly mute younger sister. She spurns offers of help, but she's more vulnerable than she likes to let on.


Monsters chase Addison through the streets affected by the Spill. Addison punches an adult who's cheated her out of her proper payment.


Wiley seems to be attracted to Addison and flirts with her in an understated way.


Characters under stress swear fairly frequently, using variants of "s--t" and "f--k" seven or eight times each. Plus less than a half dozen uses of "crap," "hell," "ass," and "d--khead."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Addison drinks champagne with a client. Army troops smoke while on duty.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Spill Zone is the first volume of a science fiction/horror graphic novel series by Scott Westerfeld, author of Uglies and co-author of Zeroes. The book is set in an abandoned part of Poughkeepsie, New York. Main character Addison, a tough-minded teen photographer who's survived a mysterious disaster known as the Spill, is chased by various monsters in the Zone, but there's little actual violence. Characters under stress swear fairly frequently (variants of "s--t" and "f--k," plus single uses of "crap," "hell," "ass," and "d--khead"). Sexual content is limited to mild flirting. The main character drinks a glass of champagne, and Army troops smoke on duty.

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What's the story?

As SPILL ZONE opens, teen photographer Addison is making unauthorized excursions into an abandoned part of Poughkeepsie, New York. No one knows what happened to the city that night when everything changed, but Addison is determined to bring back images that depict the ongoing craziness. A survivor of the Spill, Addie's younger sister Alexa rarely speaks but psychically communes with a bizarre doll named Vespertine. Addie has the chance to earn $1 million for her work, but is the payday worth the otherworldly danger?

Is it any good?

This eerie sci-fi thriller raises a lot of compelling questions and provides a few tantalizing answers as the series begins. In Spill Zone, author Scott Westerfeld does a great job of setting up potential plot complications for Addison and her sister Lexa and then amping up the level of suspense. The ruins of the Zone are filled with bizarre creatures and potential traps, and readers are likely to care deeply for Addie's safety as she attempts to maneuver them.

Alex Puvilland's artwork is suitably creepy, and his storytelling choices enhance the power of the narrative. The story ends with a revelatory cliffhanger, and comics fans and sci-fi enthusiasts will want to read the next volume as soon as possible.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Spill Zone adds elements of science fiction to everyday reality. How does imagining a different future shed light on the present?

  • How can siblings work together together to protect each other in difficult times?

  • In the face of a natural disaster, what's the value of art?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love graphic novels and science fiction

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