Book Reviews: Ana and Zak

A 2017-2018 Missouri Gateway Award Nominee

From Publisher’s Weekly:

Ana and Zak are polar opposites: she’s a brainy, straight-A student focused on meeting her parents’ expectations, and he’s a geeky slacker coasting through high school on his way to community college. An extra-credit assignment throws them together at a quiz bowl championship in Seattle, where they spend a hectic all-nighter on a rescue mission after Ana’s younger brother runs away to a science fiction convention. With Zak as her guide, Ana plunges into the world of Washingcon, filled with cosplaying nerds of every stripe, where they are targeted by an angry mob of card-game collectors, hunted by a Viking, and held captive by a drug dealer—all before dawn. Peppering his novel with references to delight die-hard SF fans and pop-culture aficionados alike, Katcher (Almost Perfect) pens a love letter to fanboys and fangirls everywhere. On the surface, the story is a lighthearted and entertaining romance, but serious undertones explore the fractured side of parent-child relationships and misfit characters desperate to find a tribe. A delightful romp for anyone still figuring out where they belong. Ages 14–up.

From Kirkus:
Two teens discover that their improbable chemistry is just what it takes for a probable relationship. Still adjusting to a new stepdad, slacker Zak has anxiously been awaiting Washingcon, a science fiction, fantasy, and comic book convention in Seattle. But when his health teacher (and quiz bowl sponsor) notices that he plagiarized his health paper, she offers him two options: fail health and not graduate or serve as an alternate on the quiz bowl team for their big tournament. Who really fails health? So he begrudgingly chooses the latter, despite it being the same weekend as his con. Hyperfocused Ana, who must be perfect to show her parents she’s not like her older sister who dropped out of high school to have a baby, has her doubts about Zak. After Ana’s younger brother and fellow quiz bowl member, Clayton, sneaks out to attend Washingcon, Zak and Ana begin a humorously whirlwind night searching for him. Their alternating viewpoints narrate how they dodge and outwit parents, felons, and other outlandish con characters. While Clayton constantly eludes them, Zak and Ana do find a connection through mutual loss, courage to stand up for themselves, and first love. There’s even fun at a “mixed” [my quotes] marriage (between a Star Wars and a Star Trek enthusiast)! Fans of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist will find con-tentment here. (Fiction. 14 & up)

From School Library Journal:
When slacker and sci-fi enthusiast Zak Duquette meets type-A scholar Ana Watson, he is strangely attracted; unfortunately, Ana has no time for anything but academics, as her parents’ demands for perfection will ensure. But the two are forced to work together when Zak is coerced by a teacher to join the quiz bowl team with Ana and her whiz-kid younger brother, Clayton. Unfortunately for Zak, the quiz bowl takes place on the same weekend as WashingCon—the sci-fi convention where Zak has had many amazing adventures every year. After Zak extols the glories of the fest, Clayton sneaks away to experience it for himself. In order to keep Clayton’s disappearance from her overly controlling parents, Ana must team up with Zak and brave the gathering of geeks, zombies, Vikings, and aliens to find her brother before curfew. In alternating chapters, as they meet one obstacle after another, this seemingly incongruous couple slowly begins to open up and to appreciate each other’s talents. While Zak’s devil-may-care attitude may be a response to his father’s death and his mother’s rather hasty marriage to a man with whom he is still not comfortable, Ana feels pressured by her parents to make up for her sister’s transgressions that caused her to be banished from their home years ago. Strong personalities, a cast of out-of-this-world characters, and a fast-paced manhunt in an imaginative setting make this an appealing title for tweens and teens. VERDICT A zany romantic comedy for pop culture geeks and “Con” enthusiasts.