Zeroes & Swarm Reviews: Superhero Misfits Meet Their Match

November 7, 2016 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 3 stars, Books, Reviews

Zeroes & Swarm Reviews: Superhero Misfits Meet Their MatchZeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti
Published by Allen & Unwin on September 23rd 2015
Source: Publisher
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Action & Adventure
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia
Add to Goodreads

Don't call them heroes. But these six Californian teens have powers that set them apart

Ethan aka Scam has a voice inside him that'll say whatever people want to hear, whether it's true or not. Which is handy, except when it isn't - like when the voice starts gabbing in the middle of a bank robbery. The only people who can help are the other Zeroes, who aren't exactly best friends these days.
Enter Nate, aka Bellwether, the group's 'glorious leader.' After Scam's SOS, he pulls the scattered Zeroes back together. But when the rescue blows up in their faces, the Zeroes find themselves propelled into whirlwind encounters with ever more dangerous criminals. At the heart of the chaos they find Kelsie, who can take a crowd in the palm of her hand and tame it or let it loose as she pleases.
Filled with high-stakes action and drama, Zeroes unites three powerhouse authors for the opening installment of a thrilling new series.

Superheroes are my jam and Zeroes is a high octane, action-packed story about a team of teenage misfits who also happen to have powers.

Superpowers never get old for me, and I loved hearing about the different powers that each of the six teens had. Kelsie has the power of crowd control, which comes in handy in dangerous public situations. Scam has an all knowing, all seeing voice that gets him in – and out of situations in a jiffy without much control over what he says. Anonymous seems to fade from existence as people easily forget about him. There’s also Nate, or the Glorious Leader who can control people’s reactions to him and Flicker, the blind girl who can see from people’s eyes. Each of their powers were interesting and fun to read about, as they used them as the story unfolded.

The Zeroes, they’d called themselves as a joke. Like heroes, but not. They’d even tried to act like superheroes, with stupid training exercises and code names.

With so many point of views, the one who I was most fascinated with was Ethan aka Scam. It was interesting how his power was compared to schizophrenia, as he doesn’t have control over the ‘voice’ that somehow knows things about people that only they know. It was fascinating seeing the shift in his demeanour – from the geeky, unconfident teenager to the confident, charismatic person while his voice was in use. It would actually be pretty freaky – and amazing – seeing that change in someone, especially when he starts manipulating siutations from his very emotions.

There isn’t much background for each of the characters, and we aren’t given how they got the powers to begin with. Is this a natural phenomenon, are they the only ones with powers, or is it some sort of hidden code between them? When it comes to the validity of the world being built, answering these questions is important, and I hope it’s addressed in the sequel, Swarm. There also isn’t much of a plot line, with most of the story focused on unfolding current events and saving Kelsie’s dad. Who are the Zeroes, what are Nate’s plans for them and what do they usually do with themselves? I have so many questions, and not enough answers.


As an action-packed superhero read, Zeroes definitely fits the bill when it comes to superpowers and fun. Each of the characters are fun and unique, especially when discovering what they have to offer the group. The book doesn’t give a lot of depth or background when it comes to the characters or where the powers came from however, so it’s best enjoyed without thinking too much about it.

Rating: 3 out of 5


Zeroes & Swarm Reviews: Superhero Misfits Meet Their MatchSwarm by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti
Published by Allen & Unwin on October 1st 2016
Source: Publisher
Genres: Young Adult, Action & Adventure
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia
Add to Goodreads

Keep the secret.Use your power for good.Keep out of trouble.Stick together.Or things will fall apart.
It's the holiday season, but the celebration at the Zeroes's underground nightclub is blown apart when two strangers with new powers take to the dance floor. The Zeroes pursue them, only to discover that they're fleeing an even more sinister power-wielder, Swarm. The Zeroes must learn all they can about this dangerous new player if they are to stay safe.
Meanwhile each of the Zeroes also has their own issues to deal with. Bellwether's confidence is challenged, and Mob questions the nature of her power. Crash's conscience gets a workout, and Anon and Scam face harsh truths about belonging. And it's up to Flicker to pick up the reins and lead the Zeroes into a terrifying showdown.
A terrific sequel with a cracking pace that raises the stakes in this brilliant and unique superheroes series.

While Zeroes was a great introduction into the kids that make up the superhero squad, Swarm amped up the pace and the storyline as the Zeroes encounter their first villain.

The story starts off with a bang, as the Zeroes have opened up a new nightclub called the Dish, which they use to experiment with their powers. As people are drawn to the club, they soon meet two people who are like them and also have powers – Davey and Ren who can shut down their powers and also manufacture fake money. They temporarily shut down the powers that the Zeroes have relied on for so long, which sets across a motion of self-doubt and unworthiness for most of the characters.

They’re also warned of a new villain who is chasing their tails – the Swarm, who can control a crowd to do bad things, like kill. On the other side of the things, the group is warned of a new villain – the Swarm, who can control a crowd to do bad things, like kill. This gorier, darker turn that the sequel takes was actually quite an unexpected surprise, given how light the tone of Zeroes was. His narcissistic personality and sinister behaviour was actually quite fascinating, especially when he took love and happiness as a slight against him.


With Nate’s trademark self-confidence taking a blow, Ethan kind of hating the voice he has no control over, Thibault feeling forgotten and lonely and Kelsie constantly questioning herself, there’s a lot of angst and feeling sorry for themselves. Although there was lots of action happening when it came to their encounters with Davey, Ren and the Swarm, the whinging and the negativity made the book drag for me. Each of the Zeroes are all dealing with their own issues and it felt too disconnected and morose at times. I wasn’t a fan of Kelsie this time around and couldn’t agree with her actions.

Although it wasn’t really a happy occasion for any of the Zeroes, I liked how they went home for Christmas and we could see how they each celebrated. I really felt for Thibault, who is easy overlooked and ignored because of his power to blend in and be forgotten. I also liked meeting Chizara’s Nigerian family and how they welcomed Kelsie. Seeing this lesbian relationship evolve throughout the course of the novel was also a plus, although there wasn’t enough focus on it for my liking. Flicker and Thibault were also the cutest as usual, although we did see her point of view take a back seat when it came to the rest of the Zeroes. I wanted more, seeing as it was a tiny beacon of light in an ocean of darkness.

“Don’t apologize. For once your voice was telling the truth.” – Kelsie
“There’s times to tell the truth, my mom says, and times to shut the fuck up.” – Ethan

Coming into this novel, I was expecting some of my questions to be answered, such as why the Zeroes can have powers in the first place. I was disappointed that this still wasn’t addressed, especially as they started to encounter other people like them. With superpowers, there’s so much potential in the abilities that people can have, but Swarm having a “souped up” version of Kelsie’s power was kind of lacking.


Swarm starts off with a bang and introduces unexpected gore, fast-paced action, a lesbian relationship and an evil villain with powers. While all these were welcome additions, the darker tone of the novel caught me off guard especially with the amount of angst and self-doubt in the novel. At this point, I’m not sure if the origin of their powers will be addressed, but it’s still a fun, action-packed superhero read nonetheless.

Rating: 3 out of 5


Thanks to Allen & Unwin Australia for the review copies! 

Zeroes and Swarm are available from all Australian bookstores for AU$19.99 RRP.


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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Tiktok@happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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11 responses to “Zeroes & Swarm Reviews: Superhero Misfits Meet Their Match

  1. I had to skim over your review for Swarm as I haven't read Zeroes yet. I've been in two minds about picking it up, mainly because I'm not into superheroes, I know I know. I'm probably one of the few that isn't. But I thought it might be a little more like Dangerous Minds and in that case, I'd be all over that. Usually I need a bit of backstory to find characters likeable and sad to hear that it isn't here. I'm thinking these are probably lighter reads that are great for in between a series or just a break from the usual. Great reviews Jeann, glad you were still able to enjoy them 3
    My recent post Contemporary #LoveOzYA

    • Thanks Kelly! Yeah, it took me ages to pick this one up and I'm not sure if I would've normally. I feel like the powers were really cool and worth reading about though.

  2. Yeah, I know I really struggled with that lack of detail especially when it wasn't even addressed in the second book! OMG which ones are those?!

    • Yeah, pretty much Braine. They are entertaining but also not the best book I'd read (I have Uglies on my shelf but I am not interested anymore).

  3. I enjoy books about superheroes too, but I have definitely not read a lot of them. I struggle with multiple POVs, but I still want to give this one a shot. I can understand how the angst and darkness was surprising though. I wouldn't have expected that either. I think I associate all superheroes with Marvel superheroes who are all on the jokey side despite the crazy villains.
    Great reviews, Jeann!
    My recent post Results May Vary by Bethany Chase Is Proof That I Need To Read More Women’s Fiction Novels

    • Vicious is definitely my favourite Nick! If you haven\’t read it, you\’re in for a treat! Yeah, considering how the first one was quite light, the second one took me by surprise. Thank you Nick!

    • LOL it really is a superhero obsession isn\’t it? The multiple povs actually add to it so you can hear about how each one uses their powers and how they feel about it.

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