Things aren’t looking good for 18-year-old Henry Elinsky. A recent college flunk-out, he’s living with his folks in Maryland and hoping that something fabulous will miraculously happen. Not surprisingly, when David, Henry’s successful older brother, offers him a room in the Manhattan apartment he shares with his girlfriend, Henry jumps at the chance. Within weeks of moving to the city, Henry gets a job as an animal keeper at the Central Park Children’s Zoo and begins a friendship-maybe-romance with the tall, striking Margaret. These life changes serve as catalysts, helping him begin the process of deciding who and what he wants to be.
It sounds a bit ho-hum, but it is not. Indeed, this wise, funny, and touching coming-of-age story tackles the big stuff: love, identity, death, and the limits of familial protection. Dolnick, dubbed a “great new writer” by Barnes and Noble, has crafted one of the most fully-realized adolescent males in recent memory. Henry’s sensitivity and kindness, alongside his awkwardness and insecurity, are winning, and Zoology is simultaneously charming, sweet and powerful.