After Zero (Hardcover)

After Zero By Christina Collins Cover Image

After Zero (Hardcover)


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This award winning book offers kids an authentic depiction of selective mutism and a story of the experience of middle school interactions and mental illness.

Elise carries a notebook full of tallies, each page marking a day spent at her new public school, each stroke of her pencil marking a word spoken. A word that can't be taken back. Five tally marks isn't so bad. Two is pretty good. But zero? Zero is perfect. Zero means no wrong answers called out in class, no secrets accidentally spilled, no conversations to agonize over at night when sleep is far away.

But now months have passed, and Elise isn't sure she could speak even if she wanted to—not to keep her only friend, Mel, from drifting further away—or to ask if anyone else has seen her English teacher's stuffed raven come to life. Then, the discovery of a shocking family secret helps Elise realize that her silence might just be the key to unlocking everything she's ever hoped for...

A 2019 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts (NCTE)

A 2018 Cybils Nominee

A Texas Lone Star Reading List title

"Powerful and poetic."—John David Anderson, author of Posted and Ms. Bixby's Last Day

"This tender and truthful book stays with you long after the words have gone."—Patricia Forde, author of The List

"A must read. After Zero reminds us of so many loved ones of those suffering from anxiety or depressive disorders. It is a story that will hopefully foster empathy and maybe even communication with our 'quiet' peers."—Wesley King, author of OCDaniel

Age Level: 8 and up | Grade Level: 3 to 7

Great for parents and educators looking for:

  • A story that addresses middle school social interactions, grief, loss and mental illness
  • A story that depicts selective mutism authentically
Christina Collins grew up in Massachusetts and now lives in Northern Ireland, where she's always on the lookout for castle ruins and secret gardens. She holds an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University and is pursuing a PhD in creative writing at Queen's University Belfast. She has taught at both universities and has been a writer-in-residence at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts as well as the Art Commune program in Armenia. After Zero is her debut novel. Learn more at, or follow her on Twitter (@stinacoll).
Product Details ISBN: 9781492655329
ISBN-10: 1492655325
Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers
Publication Date: September 4th, 2018
Pages: 256
Language: English
"A series of social missteps convinces eighth-grader Elise that remaining silent is preferable to saying the wrong thing and looking foolish... Elise's social isolation and pain are realistically portrayed" — Kirkus Reviews

"It's easy to root for Elise, an empathetic narrator in unfortunate circumstances... at its heart, this is a story about a familycoming together after trauma, and the healing and understanding that comes when people pay attention. Asolid addition to a growing list of middle-grade books dealing with mental health." — Booklist

"This is a thoughtful book that sheds light on a little known anxiety disorder called selective mutism. Middle school students and staff would benefit from reading Elise's story. Recommended." — School Library Connection

"Give this to readers interested in the ways that anxiety can shape lives and also how young people can healthily negotiate it." — The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"A powerful and poetic novel about the power of words to shape who we are and who we can be. Elise's journey will speak to anyone who has struggled to find their voice, overcome their doubts, and discover their own self worth." — John David Anderson, author of Granted and Posted

"An eloquent journey through the pain of growing up, this tender and truthful book stays with you long after the words have gone." — Patricia Forde, author of The List

"A gripping debut novel about a girl struggling to find her voice and discover her past." — Carol Weston, author of Speed of Life and Girltalk

"After Zero takes us into the world of selective mutism and helps us find a story in the silence. For an interconnected generation that can sometimes assume silence is ignorance or a personal slight, this is a must read. Readers will take to Elise right away: she is smart and earnest, and like many of us, social norms can elude her. The story moves along quickly to broach themes of forgiveness and friendship. But most importantly, it reminds us of so many loved ones of those suffering from anxiety or depressive disorders who want to shout, 'Just speak! Just say something! Just be normal!' Now we get to walk with Elise and understand her struggles. It is a story that will hopefully foster empathy and maybe even communication with all our 'quiet' peers." — Wesley King, author of OCDaniel