Chris L. Terry
Curbside Splendor Publishing
Reviewed by Nancy
4 out of 5 stars
Zero Fade chronicles eight days in the life of inner-city Richmond, Virginia, teen Kevin Phifer as he deals with wack haircuts, bullies, last year's fly gear, his uncle Paul coming out as gay, and being grounded.
If it wasn’t for Karen's review, I’d probably never come across this book, and that would be a terrible shame.
The cover was embarrassingly bright, the characters on the front are green and the one in back is yellow. I loved the book’s compact size, the bright white pages and the comfortable text size. It aroused some curiosity on the bus, probably because I’m in my 50’s and there’s a prominent Teen Urban Fiction label on the spine, or maybe because I had a silly smile on my face reading about 13-year-old Kevin’s “mushy tushy.” Yeah, it’s a kids’ book, but adults can enjoy it too.
I liked how this story shows just 8 days of Kevin’s life. It is not all mundane, though. He’s a very typical teenage boy at that awkward age where your body and emotions are in turmoil. His dad left when he was a baby, his sister is distant, and his mom is smart in lots of ways. It’s just too bad she can’t give her son a decent haircut.
I also liked how the story takes place in urban Richmond, Virginia, and features black characters that are richly drawn, vibrant and real. Their skin color is not the focus of the story, yet this is very much a story about the black experience. It deals with the complexity of relationships, identity, sexuality, and growing up without being preachy.
Kevin’s sharp observations brought me back to my own childhood growing up in the Bronx. Though we didn’t share all the same experiences, there were enough similarities that made it very easy for me to relate and empathize with his character. He wasn’t always likable (what 13-year-old is), but he is genuine.
"Our school’s old. When you first walk in, there are class photos from the ‘50s to now. The school was segregated before Martin Luther King, so the pictures from the ‘50s and ‘60s are all white people wearing funny-shaped glasses and sitting on corncobs. By the ‘70s, there are a few black people in the pictures with big ‘fros and beaded necklaces like pictures of Mama in high school. They’re bits of pepper in a salt spill. But it’s reversed by 1980, and the pictures look like Oreo cookies—mainly black, with a little white in the middle."
Kevin deals with bullying, competing with his best friend to get a girl, and his discomfort with all things gay. His dapper gay uncle, Paul, certainly is not making that easier for him. At least Kevin now has a great haircut.
As thoughtful and entertaining as this story was, I’m glad it’s over. Like many kids, Kevin was really hard to take at times.