Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Blog Tour Book Review & Giveaway: Playground Zero by Sarah Relyea

Playground Zero
Sarah Relyea

Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication date: 9th June 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 416
Format Read: eBook

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. 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.

Playground Zero is a finely written work of Historical Fiction set in Berkeley, California during the years 1968 – 1971. The story follows Alice Rayson from the age of 10 to 13 years, when she and and her family lived in Berkeley. Alice finds it hard to fit in after moving from Washington, D.C. where she had many friends. Berkeley had a very different culture to Washington, D.C. With her parents, Marian and Tom, concentrating on their own lives and problems they give Alice free reign to make her own decisions and mistakes. With her father’s frequent absences and her mother’s apathy Alice feels she has no one to talk to and confide in.
Sarah Relyea’s look back at the psychedelic 60’s through the eyes of a pre-teen was eye-opening and heart-breaking. She includes details of the political unrest of the time, the Peace and Freedom Movement, civil protests, demonstrations and police confrontations.
Told in multiple points of view the Rayson family were finding their place during a time of great political upheaval for America with the ongoing controversy over the Vietnam war and the protests at the Berkeley Campus of the University of California.
Sarah Relyea’s writing is profound and haunting. With short sentences that flow effortlessly this is a literary style I enjoy reading.
Alice is a child living a lonely life desperately trying to fit in, be accepted, knowing what is right and wrong but lacking the maturity to say no, she tests the limits and runs wild.
Playground Zero is not a book to rush through. It is better to read it slowly, absorb the words and immerse yourself in the characters, their development and capture a picture of Berkeley at a crucial time in history.
Photo credit:Hunter Canning Photography

Born in Washington, D.C., Sarah Relyea left the Berkeley counterculture at age thirteen and processed its effects as a teenager in suburban Los Angeles. She would soon swap California’s psychedelic scene to study English literature at Harvard. Sarah is the author of Playground Zero: A Novel and Outsider Citizens: The Remaking of Postwar Identity in Wright, Beauvoir, and Baldwin. She remains bicoastal, living in Brooklyn and spending time on the Left Coast.

Visit the listed blogs to follow the rest of the tour.

Thanks to Stephanie Barko Literary Publicist I have one eCopy of Playground Zero to give away. This competition is open internationally and closes at Midnight AEST 23rd June 2020.
Entry is via the form below.


  1. Replies
    1. It was Sharah. I didn't know much about America in the late 1960's.

  2. Thanks so much for partnering with Sarah Relyea and I, Veronica. We look forward to getting Sarah's novel out to your giveaway winner.

  3. This one sounds like a unique read! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  4. This is an interesting premise. I haven’t read a lot of historical fiction from this time, and as my parents were very young then and don’t remember too much, I do not know much about it.

    1. I didn't know much about this part of American history either.

  5. I like the sound of this book. Great review and giveaway.

  6. This sounds like an interesting read. Great that you got a spot on the blog tour.

  7. Thank you, Veronica, for sponsoring this book giveaway!