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Zero O’Clock by C.J. Farley

zero-oclock-cj-farley-jeanne-blasberg-book-reviewZero O’Clock by C.J. Farley

In the first line of CJ Farley’s latest novel, Zero O’Clock, Geth Montego says she “would give anything to make old people remember what it’s like to be a teenager.” To that, I say “mission accomplished.” Not only did she take me back to that vulnerable time, Geth illuminated the unique challenges of high school graduating seniors in the class of 2020. Zero O’Clock is a beautiful and timely YA novel that is both heartbreaking and whip smart, a glimpse into the world of virtual friendship, classrooms, and pop stardom. Most importantly, this novel is a rallying cry, a writer’s attempt to galvanize a global and national crisis. Through Geth’s eyes, Farley’s narrative raises issues of societal inequities and racial injustice through the voices of authentic characters who display courage and resolve. I would encourage readers of any age to take Geth’s hand as she navigates unimaginable loss and to emulate her examples of grace. “Even when we have nothing, we have something to give.”

This official blurb was provided at the request of the author.

 

Find other books Jeanne has blurbed.

 

About Zero O’Clock

Sixteen-year-old Geth Montego must carve a new path for herself in a world turned upside down by the COVID pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests.

Geth Montego only has three friends. There’s her best friend Tovah, who’s been acting weird ever since they started applying to the same colleges. Then there’s Diego, who she wants to ask to prom, but if she does it could ruin everything. And there’s the K-pop band BTS, who she’s never seen up close but she’s certain she’d be BFFs with every member of the group if she ever met them for real.

Then Geth’s small town of New Rochelle, New York, becomes the center of a virus sweeping the world. Schools are closed, jobs are lost, and the only human contact she has is over Zoom. After a confrontation with cops, Geth gets caught up in the Black Lives Matter movement and finds herself having to brave the dangers she’s spent months in quarantine trying to avoid.

Geth’s friends, family, and hometown are upended by the pandemic and the protests. Geth faces a choice: Is she willing to risk everything to fight for her beliefs? And what exactly does she believe in, anyway?

Zero O’Clock comes to an independent bookstore near you on September 7, 2021. Or preorder today from Bookshop.

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AT HOME before it was a thing…

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Literary Community: The Silver Lining of the COVID Era

I finally had a hair appointment and while the grey is back under control and the cut is cute and bouncy, the best thing about the appointment was somewhat unexpected. The act of reclining back toward the sink to have my hair shampooed brought on a state of near ecstasy I hadn’t anticipated. It wasn’t just the perfect water temperature; it was the caress and massage of another’s hands on my scalp.  I have always enjoyed that part of the process, but it’s possible at a pace of every 6-8 weeks over the past twenty years, I had begun to take it for granted.  Gloved hands working the soap through my hair made it perfectly safe for both of us (of course that was first thing that went through my mind before I could relax into the experience.)  But then it was all about another’s fingers spreading and applying pressure to a head that had been reeling, fretting, aching.

To be touched. It is a primal human need. I’ve gone six months turtling into my shell, shrinking back when others come too close, my circumference of acceptable personal space swollen and awkward.  That shampoo was a Godsend. I know what I have been missing and what might have me come alive again.

Since that afternoon, I’ve been wondering what will be the occasion and who will be the recipient of my first ungloved handshake once this has subsided, in the new-normal?  It probably won’t be planned or foreseen, but I hope it elicits the same awareness I had while my hair was being shampooed and rinsed.  As opposed to never knowing when an interaction with somebody or something is going to be your last, I look forward to being aware of that first.  I vow to be grateful for human touch and the generosity and connection it exhibits. May I never take that for granted again.

But even as my hair grew unruly and turned its natural color while at home, some things became more accessible in the virtual world, including literary events. Of course, they are always more fun in person, but never before did I have the option to attend one every day in locales near and far.  Like a kid in a candy store, I binged on them in April and May, doing my best to support authors who had the shit luck of launching a book during the pandemic. I found new favorites and ordered books from Bookshop.org to keep indies in business.

literary-community-during-covid-family-watching-computer copyThe summer months brought more events, and I was able to drag family members along in ways I never was able to before.  While working on a jigsaw puzzle, my son and I tuned into a Sarah Broom and Thelma Golden in discussion about THE YELLOW HOUSE through the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival.  Our local bookstore featured Colson Whitehead’s discussion of THE NICKLE BOYS and THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD and while my adult children went on about their business preparing dinner in the kitchen, they stopped and listened—and then actually read all of Whitehead’s work.  I binged on Europa Edition’s worldwide panel discussions of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, the Boston Book Festival’s event with Ella Berthoud, who streamed in from the UK to prescribe her NOVEL CURE

I’ve also taken many classes and attended writing conferences, thanks to Grub Street, The Southampton Writers Conference, Brooke Warner of She Writes Press, and Mary Carroll Moore. What’s more, I taught my first fiction workshop, an 8 week generative class on Monday evenings through the Westerly Writers Workshop and the Ocean Community YMCA. What used to be an infrequent respite from a busy life has become a weekly pleasure, filling in the distance between us and the encircling arms of friends.

jeanne-blaserbg-at-computer-for-literary-eventAnd I am not alone. If you are a book lover or lifelong learner, I’m sure you have had similar experiences.  If you want a few tips – please know it is Book Festival Season. I am biased toward the Boston Book Festival, but the Brooklyn Book Festival and the National Book Festival are also coming up with events open to all online.

We are at a strange moment in time, with technology making our world smaller and more accessible even as world events balloon the distance between us. But don’t take it for granted. Indulge now because the pendulum is sure to swing once more.  

Even as I look forward to that first handshake, the next shampoo, the opportunity to hug friends outside my bubble close once more, this communion with fellow book lovers is a different kind of needed touch. For now, may I take as much pleasure in the brief caress of each literary event as I did in that simple moment at the salon.