Kevin, the main protagonist of Zero Fade, is a middle school kid experiencing the peer pressures and social awkwardness any early teen can relate to. Facing school bullies and crushes on classmates, Kevin is trying to figure out who he is while he questions notions of race, masculinity and class. Chris L. Terry writes from a perspective grounded in urban sensibility and cross-cultural understanding.
Kevin’s voice is sharp, funny, insecure and uncensored. He is fully immersed in mid-nineties hip hop and media, which reflects in his language and interactions with friends. Terry is on point with references I recognized from my own childhood, which added a nice layer of surprise while reading.
Kevin’s family keeps him in check, including his Uncle Paul. Paul, the most important figure in his life beside his mother, serves as his example of manhood. So when Paul comes out to Kevin, his traditional ideas of manhood are challenged, forcing him to either reject his uncle or to redefine this ideas for himself.
Terry chooses to write from both the perspectives of Kevin and Paul, which provides a more complex portrait of the dynamics of their family and their emotional investment in each other. With Paul’s perspective, the reader is allowed to follow the insecurity that anyone embracing a new identity faces. No matter his age, Paul’s emotional journey is parallel to Kevin’s. This opens up the story beyond the YA audience and asks the reader to remember the moments of vulnerability in their own life.
Instead of major conflict, Terry focuses on the emotional complexities of growing up and claiming self. He makes the characters deal with the interpersonal consequences of honesty. After a long day of ‘normal’ events, the characters have to face each other, which is maybe the hardest task of all. While things on the surface remain the same, their experiences change them beneath the surface. They can only reconcile differences through dialogue and care for each other.
Overall, this is an entertaining and worthy read that can appeal to both young and adult readers. Chris L. Terry is a mixed writer and educator, and a participant in this year’s Mixed Remixed Festival. Find more info on him on his website, or visit him on Twitter. You can purchase the book on Amazon.
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