Summary: From the Desk of Zoe Washington
Twelve-year-old Zoe Washington’s summer is off to a rough start. She’s not speaking to one of her best friends, for one. Her other best friend is away at summer camp and the third one has moved away. But things get more complicated when she finds a letter in the mail from her incarcerated birth father. The only problem is that he’s in jail for something “very bad” and Zoe has never met or spoken to him before.
As she starts to write to Marcus, Zoe realizes that things might not be so black and white — not with her friend Trevor, and certainly not with Marcus. While she learns more about Marcus, she also spends part of her summer interning at a pastry shop.
I LOVED THIS BOOK. This one really caught me by surprise. The first twenty percent or so, I had to settle into Zoe’s sprightly, spunky voice and orient myself. But once her letters to Marcus became more frequent, things got more interesting.
There’s an undeniable air of mystery in this book as Zoe reveals what Marcus is in jail for. Readers also learn more about Zoe’s mother and Marcus’ history. Zoe and Trevor’s investigative adventures were thrilling and I loved the way they resolved issues in their friendship.
It was also refreshing to see both kids be just friends at age twelve — it especially felt right for these two. Another thing I appreciated was the firm and realistic way the adults in this story responded to the kids’ behaviors. In Zoe Washington, the parents are no blubbering idiots and poor choices have consequences.
I loved Marcus and Zoe’s relationship and actually shed a tear or three in several of their scenes. Zoe’s character is so alive; every time she was anxious or angry or frustrated, I was there with her 100 percent. And how could I fail to mention Zoe’s inspiring love for baking? She made me want to whip out a mixer I don’t even own!
Overall: From the Desk of Zoe Washington
From the Desk of Zoe Washington is a moving, true-to-life middle-grade novel that highlights just how potent perseverance can be — even when you’re just twelve. This book is one of those middle-grade novels that tackles issues without taking away the joy of the mundane.
Debut author Janae Marks explores parental incarceration, wrongful imprisonment, friendship missteps, and more in this novel. I couldn’t help but think of Alicia D. Williams’s Genesis Begins Again. Zoe jumps off the page as much as Genesis does.
If you loved Genesis Begins Again and The Parker Inheritance, you’ll enjoy this book! The latter’s investigative element is quite similar to this book’s. I highly — oh so highly — recommend this novel.Debut author @JanaeMarksBooks explores parental incarceration, wrongful imprisonment, friendship missteps, and more in this novel. If you loved Genesis Begins Again and The Parker Inheritance, you’ll enjoy this book! Click To Tweet
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More Middle-Grade Reviews
- Dough Boys by Paula Chase
- Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
- Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres
- Hungry for more? Read my interview with author Janae Marks.
- Check out 9 other books for fans of From the Desk of Zoe Washington
What are your favorite Black middle-grade books? Have you read any other books featuring incarcerated parents? I’d love to hear your recommendations! If you’re a fan of food related middle-grade books, you’ll enjoy my list of middle-grade books about food.
This book sounds really remarkable. I’m putting it on my TBR list. Thanks for your review.
Afoma Umesi says
It’s so good! I hope you enjoy 🙂
Jenna @ Falling Letters says
I’m intrigued by the ‘mystery’ aspect of this book. I agreed with the comment you made in the interview about how there’s not much mystery of this sort in middle grade. One Black middle grade book that sticks in my mind is The Blossoming of Universe of Violet Diamond, about a biracial girl raised by her white mother meeting her African-American family for the first time. All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook had a premise that was difficult for me to believe, but it handles a lot of topics well.