The Children’s Book Review | October 19, 2016
The Children’s Book Review: Which five words best describe The Weight of Zero?
Karen Fortunati: Hopeful, authentic, gritty, mental health, love
If you had to take a vacation with one of the characters from The Weight of Zero, who would it be? Why?
I struggled over this one because I could have a blast with most of the characters. But if I have to choose one, it would be main character Catherine because she’s got a great, sarcastic sense of humor and she loves history so we’d probably have compatible vacation ideas (museums, sightseeing, etc.). She also loves to eat (especially chocolate donuts and Italian food) so it would be fun to explore restaurants with her.
What has been the best reaction from a reader, so far?
I’ve gotten some unbelievably moving reviews – where I’m near tears as I read. I’m a debut author and I wrote the story with the goal that it would ring true and familiar to at least some of its readers. There have been some who especially connected with Catherine – her anxiety and depression mirroring in some aspect their own journeys. When they write and say the book captures what it really feels like and that it’s a realistic portrayal with no magical fixes, no love cures all tropes, I feel a huge sense of relief and gratitude.
What’s on your nightstand? Any books?
I’m reading the arc of Sometimes We Tell the Truth, a young adult debut by Kim Zarins (releases September 6, 2016) and absolutely loving it. It’s a modern twist on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with a bus trip to Washington, D.C. as the set up. I wanted to read it because I remember well my own high school D.C. trip. It’s a rite of passage for us here in the northeast. The story is amazing and beautifully written; it’s smart, funny, diverse and deals with sexuality, mental health issues and family struggles. I highly recommend it!
For your writing energy: sugar or salt, tea or coffee?
Decaf coffee and sugar in any form. I’m not picky.
Writing tools: computer, pen and paper, or all of the above?
Mostly computer and maybe ten percent of the time, paper and pen.
Can you tell us one more thing we may not know about The Weight of Zero, your writing style, or yourself?
I live with my best resource! My husband is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and he was essential in helping me gain an understanding of bipolar disorder – symptoms, medications and treatment. From detailed discussions to quick texts regarding technical info (examples: “At what dosage of Lamical would you start a patient?” and “How many tablets would you need if you were at x milligrams? One and half? Two?”) He was also critical in critiquing the scenes with Catherine and her psychiatrist. He’d say to me, “I’d never put it like that. This is what I would say…” and helped really flesh out not only the dialogue between the two characters but where they’d be sitting, furniture arrangement and at what point a parent might enter the room to join the discussion. This added to the authenticity of these scenes immensely.
Written by Karen Fortunati
Publisher’s Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Catherine Pulaski knows Zero is coming for her. Zero, the devastating depression born of Catherine’s bipolar disorder, almost triumphed once; that was her first suicide attempt.
Being bipolar is forever. It never goes away. The med du jour might work right now, but Zero will be back for her. It’s only a matter of time.
And so, in an old ballet-shoe box, Catherine stockpiles medications, preparing to take her own life before Zero can inflict its living death on her again. Before she goes, though, she starts a short bucket list.
The bucket list, the support of her family, new friends, and a new course of treatment all begin to lessen Catherine’s sense of isolation. The problem is, her plan is already in place, and has been for so long that she might not be able to see a future beyond it.
This is a story of loss and grief and hope, and how some of the many shapes of love—maternal, romantic, and platonic—affect a young woman’s struggle with mental illness and the stigma of treatment.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: Delacorte Press | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1101938898
About Karen Fortunati
Karen Fortunati is a former attorney who attends graduate school at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and works part-time as a museum educator. She lives in Connecticut with her family and rescue dogs.
This speed interview with Karen Forunati, author of The Weight of Zero, was conducted by Bianca Schulze. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Bipolar Disorder Books, Grief, Hope, Loss, Mental Health, and Speed Interview.