A Poignant Look at Grief and How to Move Forward | Review: Saving Zoë by Alyson Noel

6:30 AM

With the film adaptation being available on Netflix, I figured the time was now to refresh my memory on Alyson Noel's Saving Zoë. It feels like a lifetime has passed since I first read the novel so it's easy to see why I was excited to give it a reread. Especially since I remembered so little.

by Alyson Noel

It's been one year since the brutal murder of her older sister, Zoë, and fifteen-year-old Echo is still reeling from the aftermath. Her parents are numb, her friends are moving on, and the awkward start to her freshman year proves she'll never live up to her sister's memory. Until Zoë's former boyfriend Marc shows up with Zoë diary.

At first Echo's not interested, doubting there's anything in there she doesn't already know. But when curiosity prevails, she starts reading, becoming so immersed in her sister's secret world, their lives begin to blur, forcing Echo to uncover the truth behind Zoë's life so that she can start to rebuild her own.

Prepare to laugh your heart out and cry your eyes out in this highly addictive tale as Alyson Noël tackles the complicated relationship between two sisters and shows how the bond can endure long after one of them is gone.

Saving Zoë by Alyson Noel
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5)
“I’m always thinking about what I’m missing. Even when I’m happy with what I have.”

Ah, yes, just as I remembered: Saving Zoë is such an emotional story. It is a reminder that sometimes, the best stories come in small packages. Although short in length, Alyson Noel packs a serious punch in the story. At its core , Saving Zoë is about grief and sisterhood and all the complexities that tie into both. It is a coming of age story that shows well just how it feels growing up in the aftermath of a horrible tragedy

I was worried about how well this story had aged in the decade since its original publication. For the most part, a lot of stories from this particular era can be hit or miss. Fortunately, in so many ways, Saving Zoë doesn't show its age. What strikes me deeply about this fact is that it doesn't necessarily feel timeless, either, in the more simple terms. It more or less relies on the fact that grief is universal and timeless--it is something we all face at one point or another. 

Much like the Lurlene McDaniel books of my youth, Saving Zoë is powerful and moving. Alyson Noel captures the very essence of Echo in a way that feels real. Not many authors, specifically from this era, were successful in their efforts of making their teenage characters feel, well, like teenagers. 

Yet, Noel does so beautifully and there's so much that is underrated about that. Throughout the course of Saving Zoë, she takes no visible short cuts in crafting Echo's characteristics. No, she screams well developed with her wide-eyed innocence, occasional immaturity, confusion, angst, hopefulness and endless curiosity. We see similar development, too, in the chapters which contain Echo's sister, Zoë's diary entries. 

The first time I read Saving Zoë I vaguely remember feeling put-off by the way Echo approached her first year of high school and her own grief. I felt a lot of conflicting emotions as a teenager whilst I read it, but now I can see it more clearly. Echo is flawed, as are most girls her age, and is doing what she can in a haunting situation. 

As an adult, Saving Zoë feels almost like another story entirely. 

I saw this in the best way possible.

Although the story is deeply rooted in the murder of Zoë, unraveling what happened and why in her own words, I can't help but to feel that Saving Zoë is bright because of that bond the sisters hold even now that one of them was taken from the world so violently.

Ultimately, I found Saving Zoë to be a honest portrayal of grief. Saving Zoë makes these emotions feel almost endless, and on high. It showcases to its readers the fact that we all grieve in different ways and that is okay. 

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