Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien

11 Dec


O’Brien, Robert C. Z for Zachariah Simon Pluse, 1974. 249 pages. ISBN 978-1-42875-030-2

Plot Summary:

After an atomic blast that sent out radiation, everybody and everything has died, except for the small valley that Ann lives in. For some reason the little valley she lives in did not fall to the atomic blast. People always said that the little valley had it’s own weather and it must be true. Ann is now all alone, her family went outside the safety like of the valley in search for others who may be alive still, but they never returned. She has made a little home for herself, she still has her farm animals, garden, and supplies from the store that nobody runs anymore. One day she spies a person walking toward her valley pulling a wagon and wearing some sort of plastic suit. When he gets close enough to her valley she takes off and hides in a cave near her home and watching the mysterious stranger who somehow lived through the blast. Ann is frightened of the stranger, but at the same time hopeful that maybe they could be friends. When he bathes in water that is contaminated and falls ill, she risks it and decides to nurse him back to health. But was it the right choice?

Critical Evaluation:

This science fiction dystopian is set up as a diary written by Ann, the protagonist of this story and we get to see things through her eyes. Which can be quite frustrating at times. The feel of this story is dreadful and suspenseful with little hope for Ann’s survival. After living alone in the valley of a town for years by herself believing she is the only person left in the world, her surprise is evident when she sees a man in a radiation suit walking towards her town. Seeing how Ann is desperate for company after being alone for so long she takes a risk to go help the man. As more and more frightening facts about Mr. Loomis are revealed the suspense of the book seems to rise and rise until it is about ready to burst. I found myself yelling at Ann to get out, but she just wouldn’t listen, she was too kindhearted and lonely, just hoping Mr. Loomis was really an okay guy, but he was not. Ann’s character seems to represent the hope that is in the world, while Mr. Loomis seems to represent the horrors of the world and the two do not fit together although they create a nice balance for the novel.

Reader’s Annotation:

You’re all alone after radiation wiped out everybody, then one day a mysterious stranger walks into town. How did he survive? And can you trust him?


Robert Leslie Conly was born January 11, 1918  and died on March 5, 1973. He goes by the pen name Robert C. O’Brien and was an American author and journalist for National Geographic Magazine. Conly was the third of five children from a well-educated Irish-Catholic family. During World War II, he was listed as 4-F largely because he was quite sick as a child and it made him physically questionable. However, there were also psychological grounds for the 4-F classification. He happened to have a mental breakdown in his early adulthood.

Conly entered Williams College with an interest in music and literature. In 1935,  he left, during in his second year and later studied for a time at Julliard. He received his BA in English at the University of Rochester in 1940. O’Brien married Sarah McCaslin in 1943. The couple had four children. The marriage lasted until his death thirty years later. In 1951, Conly began working as an editor and writer for National Geographic, a job that took him around the world.

In 1963, Conly developed glaucoma and could no longer drive to work. So, he and his family moved close to his office. Withour having to commute, he had time to spare and began to write children’s stories. He wrote The Silver Crown (1968); Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIHM (1971), which received the 1972 Newbery Medal; A Report from Group 17 (1972); and Z for Zachariah (1975), which received a 1976 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery from the Mystery Writers of America. In 1982, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was made into a significantly altered animated film, The Secret of NIHM.


Science Fiction

Curriculum Ties:


Booktalking Ideas:

What would you do if a stranger walked into your life?

Ann is all alone and desperately wants company. Until she gets her wish.

Reading Level/Interest Level:


Challenge Issues:


Why I included this book:

I read this book along time ago and thought it was a good science fiction to add to my collection. I would highly recommend this book to teens who enjoy dystopian novels.

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 11, 2011 in LIBR 265-10 Database Project/Blog


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: