Published by Kids Can Press on April 4th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Goodreads Synopsis: The more I touch someone, the more I can see and understand, and the more I think I can help. But that’s my mistake. I can’t help. You can’t fix people like you can solve a math problem.
Math genius. Freak of nature. Loner.
Eva Walker has literally one friend—if you don’t count her quadruplet three-year-old-siblings—and it’s not even because she’s a math nerd. No, Eva is a loner out of necessity, because everyone and everything around her is an emotional minefield. All she has to do is touch someone, or their shirt, or their cell phone, and she can read all their secrets, their insecurities, their fears.
Sure, Eva’s “gift” comes in handy when she’s tutoring math and she can learn where people are struggling just by touching their calculators. For the most part, though, it’s safer to keep her hands to herself. Until she meets six-foot-three, cute-without-trying Zenn Bennett, who makes that nearly impossible.
Zenn’s jacket gives Eva such a dark and violent vision that you’d think not touching him would be easy. But sometimes you have to take a risk…
Zenn Diagram follows the story of Eva Walker, who is the ultimate math nerd. Not only is she really great at all things math-related, but she also just flat out loves math. It’s her passion and she’s not afraid to admit it. Eva is a bit of a loner though, not because she’s a math nerd, but more so out of necessity. She has a condition where when she touches someone or touches something that belongs to them, she gets visions. The more troubled the person’s life is, the more dramatic and violent these visions are and the more unbearable they are for Eva. They can literally bring her to her knees and so for this reason, Eva tends to limit her contact with others. She has one close friend, Charlotte, who knows about Eva’s visions, and beyond that, the only real social interactions she has are with the students that she tutors in math. Eva is a whiz when it comes to tutoring, not just because she has mad math skills, but because she can actually get visions of what exactly a student’s math struggles are just by touching their calculators. This is probably the only way her “gift” comes in handy.
The visions Eva has have plagued her pretty much all her life and although doctors have no idea what has caused them, Eva is a girl with a plan. She plans to go to college, study neuroscience, and find the cure herself! When we meet Eva, she is actively making plans to apply to elite colleges such as MIT and Northwestern and to apply for as many scholarships as she can to make her dream a reality.
Enter Zenn Bennett. Zenn is a new student who walks into Eva’s life when he needs help with math. During one of their tutoring sessions, Zenn accidentally leaves his jacket behind and Eva, without thinking, grabs it up to take it to him. The fractal that hits her is so dark, violent, and upsetting that she literally collapses on the floor. In spite of this, however, she stills feels herself drawn to Zenn. He’s cute, funny, appreciates her math nerd humor, and she feels a connection to him that she hasn’t felt with anyone else before. Is there anyway this can work out for Eva?
Eva. I am all about main characters who are a bit nerdy, so I adored Eva. I mean, seriously, how cool is it to have a girl that’s into STEM as the protagonist? I also loved that she wore her nerdiness loud and proud and was just downright hilarious at times. I would have totally wanted to be friends with Eva if I went to her school and the vibe I got from Eva was that if she didn’t have this issue about getting physically close to people, then she probably would have had tons of friends and been actively involved in many social circles.
I think the author did a wonderful job of making Eva a relatable and sympathetic character. I understood the hurt, resentment, and even jealousy Eva felt when her only friend Charlotte suddenly becomes interested in dating and the two of them start drifting apart because Eva can’t really follow suit and date as well. It’s very easy to relate to her plight because these visions really are keeping her from living her life the way she wants to. How can she have friends, boyfriends, etc., if she has to cower away from all physical contact in order to keep the visions (or fractals as she refers to them) at bay?
Zenn. I loved Zenn as much as I loved Eva. He’s a gifted artist and he’s also sweet, funny, and super cute. He also has this tremendous sense of responsibility that’s very appealing and that makes him a character that is easy to sympathize with. Early on we learn that he is working three jobs while trying to go to school because his father is out of the picture and his mother is a mess. He would actually love to go away to art school after he graduates but it just doesn’t seem in the realm of possibility based on his current circumstances.
I fell in love with Zenn the moment that he showed that he totally “got” Eva’s math nerd humor. He totally appreciates her nerdiness and the two of them just instantly click. Theirs is a relationship that you can’t help but root for, whether Eva and Zenn just become really close friends or if they can actually get past those darn fractals and date each other. Their chemistry is just so sweet and after seeing what both of their lives have been like up to this point, it’s like “Please just let them be happy together!!!”
The Fractals (or Visions). While Zenn Diagram would have been a great contemporary read even without Eva’s issue, I loved the little almost sci-fi twist that these visions throw into the mix. The fractals themselves fascinated me. They’re not exactly psychic visions, but more along the lines of colored patterns that she sees when she touches a person or something that belongs to them. The more personal the item, the more intense the visions. They’re traumatic for Eva because while she can’t necessarily sense actual events that have happened to a person, she senses all of the emotions from the events. So if someone has been abused or otherwise had something horrible happen to them, it’s all laid bare for Eva just by touching something that belongs to them. Not only is it overwhelming when it initially happens, but Eva also finds it heartbreaking because she automatically wants to “fix” whatever it is that has happened to the person, but knows she’s can’t. Eva says that the only people she can really bear to touch are children because they’re still so innocent and their fractals are therefore peaceful and soothing.
The only moment where I felt a little let down was where I guessed what was going to happen regarding a certain scholarship that is mentioned throughout the novel. I don’t want to give too much away, but as soon as I read about it and then saw who had applied for it, I totally guessed how it was going to play out. I still love the direction the story took but just wished it hadn’t been quite so easy to guess.
If you think you would enjoy a contemporary YA read with a sci-fi twist and if you love nerdy main characters, I’d definitely say to give Zenn Diagram a try. Zenn Diagram is one of those books that I probably wouldn’t have picked up if not for the recommendations of some of my fellow bloggers. I’m so glad I listened to those recommendations though because I really loved it.
RATING: 4 STARS
Thanks so much to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This in no way affects my opinion.