By Ellie Rollins
Available now from Razorbill (Penguin)
Ellie Rollins had an absolutely brilliant idea for her first novel. ZIP is a retelling of THE ODYSSEY with a young girl as the heroine, struggling to get from Kirkland, Washington to Austin, Texas on a scooter in order to save her childhood home.
Lyssa grew up in the Texas Talent Show, where her mother was a star. Ana brought magic into Lyssa's life - into the lives of everyone she met - onstage and off. But now she's dead, and Lyssa can't find her mother's magic. She likes her stepfather Michael, but doesn't like all the changes in her life. She's also in denial about her mother's death. Then she finds out that her home, which had been donated to the community, is going to be torn down but the Texas Talent Show is reuniting to protest. She decides she's going to travel and perform with her made family.
ZIP is a magical journey that will appeal to children with big imaginations. (And it will definitely help out when they're expected to read Homer during high school and college!) I loved how Lyssa gets to know a variety of people throughout America, some who are helpful and some who aren't. There's a strong thread of optimism in ZIP, but it never quite ignores that what Lyssa is doing is dangerous.
As a former resident of Austin, I absolutely loved the ending. Lyssa lives in an exaggerated version of the real world, but her Austin sure seemed like my Austin. ZIP isn't the kind of book where you demand things be plausible, but I think the climax was both plausible and a fitting fairytale-perfect resolution.
If you're looking for a good book for an elementary school student, I direct you to ZIP. Rollins debut will appeal to fans of Roald Dahl and other writers of fantastical adventures.