Zeroes, Book 1

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Zeroes, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Clever but overlong tale of superpowered misfit teens.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

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

Positive Messages

In times of trouble, friends can rally to protect one another. It's never too late for a parent and child to reconcile after a long estrangement.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Much of the plot focuses on Ethan, whom everyone describes as something of a weasel. Mostly it is his special "voice" that gets him in trouble, but he gradually learns to be more honest and open, even when he's not using a superpower.


Ethan and the other characters are in danger from drug dealers and bank robbers, but the violence is limited to chases, threats, and gunfire without much bloodshed. A bank robber is killed while committing his crime.


Two characters flirt, kiss, and cuddle. But most have no time at all for romance.


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

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character's father is a drug dealer who sells "krokodil" to other addicts.Teens drink some celebratory champagne.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Zeroes is a clever -- if somewhat overlong -- take on teen superheroes. It's the first installment of a series, written by Scott Westerfeld, author of Uglies and Afterworlds in collaboration with Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti. The level of violence is low, limited mostly to threats, chases, and gunfire, with little actual bloodshed. Strong language includes a sprinkling of variants of "f--k" and "s--t" and more frequent use of "damn," "hell," "bastard," "dick," and "bitch." Two characters flirt, kiss, and cuddle.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byrebma97 December 28, 2015

Overlong but entertaining

Zeroes has a pretty standard concept of a superhero story: a group of teenagers are gifted with abilities that they use for good. However, this story focuses mo... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byCrystalMoon March 12, 2020

Great but...

I read this when I was 11 and was a little shocked by the violence, drugs, and language. Sometimes I got nightmares.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s not... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written by[email protected] February 6, 2020

What's the story?

Ethan, known to his friends as "Scam," has a power that often does him more harm than good. His special voice says the things people want to hear, whether they're true or not. When the voice takes over during a bank robbery, Ethan must call on the other "Zeroes" to rescue him. His superpowered allies include a girl who can destroy tech hardware and software with her mind, a guy whose very existence is hard to remember, a crowd controller, and a young woman who sees through the eyes of others. When Ethan runs afoul of the police and drug dealers alike, the Zeroes have to put aside their differences to save him.

Is it any good?

Everyone wants to be a superhero these days, but this fat, clever thriller/caper novel demonstrates the downsides of being unusually gifted. Authors Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti write together seamlessly, moving the story forward with short, punchy chapters that offer various viewpoints.The mix of superpowers in ZEROES is unusual and interesting, and the characters are engaging and well delineated. Unfortunately, the plot drags a little in the middle, when it feels as if the characters are merely going over the same ground to up the page count.

However, the narrative eventually builds to a nail-biting race against time, and this inaugural volume of a series is likely to leave most readers primed for a second helping.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why stories about superheroes are so popular. How are they treated differently in various genres, from comics to movies to novels?

  • If you could have a superpower, which one would it be? Would it have drawbacks as well as benefits?

  • Do you ever feel out of control of your emotions? What actions do you take to calm yourself?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and science fiction

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