The Weight Of Zero by Karen Fortunati
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Catherine Pulaski knows Zero is coming for her. Zero, the devastating depression born of Catherine’s bipolar disorder, almost triumphed once; that was her first suicide attempt.
Being bipolar is forever. It never goes away. The med du jour might work right now, but Zero will be back for her. It’s only a matter of time.
And so, in an old ballet-shoe box, Catherine stockpiles medications, preparing to take her own life before Zero can inflict its living death on her again. Before she goes, though, she starts a short bucket list.
The bucket list, the support of her family, new friends, and a new course of treatment all begin to lessen Catherine’s sense of isolation. The problem is, her plan is already in place, and has been for so long that she might not be able to see a future beyond it.
My Rating:★★★★☆ ½
My Thoughts: Fortunati delivers a YA Contemporary with an informative look at bipolar disorder, strong emphasis on the bonds we create with others, and the hope to keep going when all seems lost.
Catherine struggles with her bipolar disorder and depression. Her grandmother passed away right in front of her and her friends have left her, so she knows “Zero” will return. Because of that she’s made a plan to take her own life. After making new friends (Krystal at therapy & Michael her history classmate and soon boyfriend) she begins to feel hopeful again.
However, her fear of admitting to her new friends of her bipolar disorder makes her worry that they won’t understand and abandon her as her ex-best friends did years ago. She then begins to withhold the truth from them and with “Zero” never too far, she’s not sure what to do.
Fortunati doesn’t shy away from the elements of Catherine’s illness and what made the novel so much more richer in terms of plot/characters was the inclusion of how Catherine’s illness affected the people around her like her mother, friends, etc.
The writing itself is very captivating and reading from Catherine’s POV really brings such rawness and honesty to this story.
Reading Catherine’s struggles felt very realistic because it was clear to see after what happened to her in the past she truly feared being judged for her disorder and being abandoned again. It took her quite a while for her to open up to people as she withheld the truth about her illness from her therapy group and lied to Michael about it. Over the course of the story begins to see her lies catching up with her.
Now she must face her truths in order to save these newly forged relationships that mean the world to her
Additionally another great aspect of this novel was the emphasis and positive messages about therapy and treatment. Fortunati delivers these messages all through out the novel through Catherine’s interactions with her therapist, her new friend Krystal, and mother. With Catherine’s therapy and new relationship with Michael, Fortunati shows the mental illnesses/difficulties many families may have when one notices, but that there is always a way to make the best of tough situations.
Out of all the friendships/relationships in this novel, I adored reading the relationships Catherine made with Kristal and Michael and seeing just how happy she became because of them.
Another plot point of this book that I loved was the soldier history project! Michael + Catherine have their plan to report on Jonathan Kasia but after a trip to the local museum with Kristal, she discovers Jane Talmadge (part of the 6888th, the first black female unit to go across Europe during WW2!) Through reading her archived letters, Catherine comes to find her story inspirational and moving! The letters help Catherine through difficult times throughout this story and through her POV you could really see just how inspired she was from learning more about Jane!
There is also a big emphasis on family, especially through the relationship between Catherine and her mother + the strong relationship Catherine sees between Michael and his family. While I do wish Fortunati gave more page time to the side characters, she managed to bring them to life and show just how flawed they were as well through Catherine’s eyes.
I did take away .5 stars because once I neared the end, I did feel it was a bit rushed and just wanted more from Michael & Catherine. Additionally, as mentioned above I also wish there was more interactions/page-time with Catherine and the side characters!
Overall Fortunati’s debut delivers a realistic, raw and engaging story about mental health. Through Catherine’s POV, you’ll join her on her journey to recovery as she finds happiness again during dark times and sees that there is always hope!