Zen and Gone

9 CDs. 10 hrs. Recorded Bks. Jul. 2018. ISBN 9781501980206. $97.75. digital download.
Gr 7 Up—Essa is a 17-year-old Buddhist in Boulder, CO. She parents her perpetually high mom (pot is legal in Boulder) and her precocious nine-year-old sister, Puck. After an awkward first meeting, Essa and Oliver fall for one another. She introduces Oliver to Buddhism at her Zendo and to orienteering in the foothills of the Rockies. When Puck stows away on an overnight wilderness survival trip then disappears in the middle of the night, Essa turns to her Buddhist faith, and her sister's knowledge of it, to save herself and maybe Puck, too. The prevalence of Buddhist faith and practice is intriguing, but it struggles for attention next to the heavy pot theme. Narrator Amielynn Abellera changes voices for all the characters which, at first, helps establish some differentiation among them. However, some mispronunciations are distracting—pine bough as "bow" (as in a little girl's hair), for example.
VERDICT The value of this novel lies in Essa's practice of Zen Buddhism; an additional purchase.

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