Swarm: Zeroes, Book 2

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Swarm: Zeroes, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Superior superhero saga levels up with new complications.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Swarm offers an unusual take on teen superheroes and could lead to a discussion of how special powers always seem to come with disadvantages.

Positive Messages

With great power comes great responsibility. Manipulating people is wrong. Individuals can have a positive effect on unruly crowds. Friends need to stick together when faced with adversity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Each of the Zeroes wants to be able to use his or her power without hurting anyone else. Unfortunately, they learn that their actions all have unexpected consequences. Throughout Swarm, they make tough decisions about whether they should sacrifice themselves for the good of the group and innocent bystanders.

Violence

Swarm contains scenes of violence, but its description is generally understated. A character is torn apart by a mob. Two characters are shot and killed.

Sex

Ethan has a crush on Kelsie but can't muster the courage to tell her. Two young women spend the night together and are physically intimate. A later encounter results in an orgasmic climax that sinks a container ship.

Language

Variants of "f--k," "bitch," "dick," and "s--t" are used infrequently (up to five or six times); "damn" and "hell," appear more frequently, up to a dozen times each.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The underground club Dish serves beer to minors.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Swarm: Zeroes, Book 2 continues the tale of teen superheroes begun in Zeroes, written by Scott Westerfeld (UgliesAfterworlds) in collaboration with Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti. The book is more thoughtful than many about the consequences of wielding superpowers. It contains scenes of violence -- two fatal shootings and a death at the hands of a mob -- but the description of the mayhem is generally understated. Strong language include five or six uses of variants of  "f--k" and "s--t"; "hell" and "damn" appear more frequently, up to a dozen times each. Alcohol is served to minors at an underground nightclub. Sexual content ranges from an unrequited crush to a love scene between two young women that leads to an orgasmic psychic climax that sinks a container ship.

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What's the story?

SWARM picks up a few months after the events recounted in Zeroes, with the six superpowered teens operating an underground nightclub while fine-tuning their psychic abilities. Their downtime is short-lived, however, when they meet a new pair of Zeroes who openly use their powers to manipulate crowds and feed on their hunger for each other. These newcomers are bad news, but something worse is on their trail and headed straight for Nate, Ethan, Thibault, Kelsie, Chizara, and Flicker. The Zeroes are willing to fight, but how high a cost are they willing to pay?

Is it any good?

Second books in trilogies are notoriously difficult to orchestrate, but the authors of this superhero saga possess the savvy needed to keep the narrative pacing on track for more than 400 pages. Swarm raises the stakes from the first book and finds new complications to challenge the ideals and the mettle of the original six Zeroes. More than merely an X-Men knockoff, this trilogy has plenty of action, intricate character work, and a snarky sense of humor. This volume's ending will leave readers reeling but ready for more.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the superheroes in Swarm. Why are superhero stories so popular now? What aspects of the genre especially appeal to readers and moviegoers?

  • What role does violence play in Swarm? Is the violence necessary, and do the ends justify the means?

  • Have there been times when you sacrificed your own happiness for the benefit of a loved one? How do you determine the best course of action when a family member is in distress?

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