Zero Day by Jan Gangsei is the well-worn, tired story of a kidnapped child being returned to her parents years after the kidnapping took place. The only difference, however, is that Addie’s parents just happen to be the President and First Lady of the United States.
Unfortunately, that’s where the excitement pretty much ends. Addie resurfaces after eight years with her captor, acting too-perfect and too-calm for a typical kidnapping victim. Meanwhile, there’s a hacktivist group, Cerberus, that’s started attacking civilians in the U.S. that the barely-included President Webster has to deal with. What happened to Addie is supposed to be a mystery, but the obviousness of it all ruins the guessing game.
And it ruins the book, too. Each “twist” is one where it’s not really a “twist” at all, and these “twists” are all over this book. Addie’s not as innocent as you thought she was—GASP! The *Important Character* dies just as he’s figured out the whole mystery—OH NO! *Important Character* was really *Another Important Character*’s father all along—WHAT!? The climax of this story happens at—OMG—PROM!? (The “reveals” were nowhere near as exciting as the previous sarcasm-filled reactions would suggest.)
Along with the completely-predictable plot, the characters were also completely-forgettable. The third-person POV switches around quite a bit, which, you would think, would give the reader an insight into what these characters are like. However, Gangsei is too busy telling the reader what the characters are like instead of showing them. (I apologize for using that super-annoying show vs. tell lesson, but here, it’s definitely a problem.)
At one point, Addie tells Michael that a “surprising” action he’s doing isn’t what he really wants to do, because she knows him. But the reader doesn’t. The reader has no idea what Michael would and would not do because the reader has only had like two glimpses of him. Other characters have a similar generic façade, simply from lack of exposure. Darrow, Addie’s “love interest”, has three friends who are just kinda there. (They were so bland I don’t even remember their names.) Addie’s sister Elinor is in rehab for a majority of the book, which could’ve made her a totally cool and interesting character, but she’s not really there at all. And Addie’s Dad is never there either, but he’s the freaking President of the United States (who should probably be present in a story about the First Daughter).
Almost all of the secondary characters are one-dimensional, and the main characters (Addie and Darrow) are two-dimensional, at best. Addie’s constant back-and-forth between where her loyalty should lie never seems to change substantially until the very end when it suddenly becomes convenient, and her hacking prowess is so unbelievably advanced that it detracts from the story. Darrow is the most interesting character, trying to discover what Addie’s been up to and experiencing a range of emotions throughout, but he still never really hits the mark.
Reading this book was a lot like eating Taco Bell—you think it’s a good idea, and you think it’s a good time while you’re eating, but after you’ve finished, you’re wishing you’d never eaten it. Zero Day desperately tried to be an interesting political thriller, but the emphasis is on “tried.” This book was just not for me.