Playground Zero

A Coming-of-Age Novel

About the Book

1968. It’s the season of siren songs and loosened bonds—as well as war, campaign slogans, and assassination.

When the Rayson family leaves the East Coast for the gathering anarchy of Berkeley, twelve-year-old Alice embraces the moment in a hippie paradise that’s fast becoming a cultural ground zero. As her family and school fade away in a tear gas fog, the 1960s counterculture brings ambiguous freedom, as People’s Park beckons.

Guided only by a child’s-eye view in a tumultuous era, Alice could become another casualty—or she could come through to her new family, her developing life. But first, she must find her way in a world where the street signs hang backward and there’s a bootleg candy called Orange Sunshine.

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What they're saying about

Playground Zero

“Playground Zero is a multi-viewpoint story much in the same vein as Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible and Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller … But no matter which character one sympathizes with, once the cadence of the story beats into the reader’s blood, it is hard to put the book down.”

— Tami Richards at Touched by Ink

“An eerily compelling déjà vu of the free, wild, and jeopardy-ridden kid scene in late-1960s Berkeley. Uncanny and powerful.”

— Charles Degelman, Editor, Harvard Square Editions

“Like a trip through the Looking Glass, Sarah Relyea’s engrossing debut novel takes you by the hand back to the sixties, where social rules were being challenged and political upheaval was the norm. Relyea tells the absorbing story of twelve-year-old Alice and her family through a series of narrators as they each experience the kaleidoscope streets of Berkeley. But she saves her most lyrical and beautiful language for the disintegration Alice sees and the heartbreak she experiences.”

— Patricia Hurtado, Brooklyn writer and journalist with Bloomberg News

“A fascinating exploration of a strange and exciting time in US history…. I was totally immersed in the story as Alice grows and develops in a world in which freedom has many different outcomes.”

— Sarah W., NetGalley


The Details

Published: June 9, 2020
Publisher: She Writes Press
Pages: 416
Formats: EbookPaperback
ISBN-10: 1-63152-889-0
ISBN-13: 978-1-63152-889-7

Historical Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction, Literary Fiction