When south Scottsdale teen Zachary Astrowsky was 10, his head was swirling with ideas of brainwashing, futuristic visions, tracking and other major themes often found in science fiction novels.
Zach wrote them all down.
Four years later, those scribbled notes became a full-fledged sci-fi novel, “The Uncontrolled,” which Zach released earlier this year.
“I was always fascinated with the future, past, present – all that type of stuff,” the 14-year-old said. “I’ve always been a fan of all this cool sci-fi stuff that I thought it would be amazing if I could put all that into a novel.”
“The Uncontrolled” is a young adult sci-fi tale about three teenagers who make a haunting discovery: Everyone they know has been implanted by the government with a mind-control tracking device. So, the teens band together for the fight of their lives.
“I’ve got a ton of goals and writing was definitely one that I never thought would happen, but now I’m here sitting with a novel,” Zach said. “It was never really a goal I thought to have until later on when I realized that I could actually do this and finish the novel.”
“The Uncontrolled” has been on shelves for eight short months, and has generated positive reviews – many by parents exclaiming how much their kids enjoyed the book. Others applaud Zach for his storytelling prowess.
The novel is even nominated for the 2018 Readers Choice Awards contest by TCK Publishing, in the young adult and middle grade book category.
“Having people support me and love the book makes me want to write more,” Zach said, revealing plans for a sequel soon. “It’s hard to find a starting point for my next book, but all my fans are helping me accomplish another book.”
Between club soccer, musical theater and playing the drums, Zach is a busy teen. And following the release of “The Uncontrolled,” he has one more after-school activity to add to his calendar: speaking to and motivating children and teens.
Zach is one of the literacy leaders for Reading is Fundamental, the nation’s largest literacy nonprofit.
“Reading and writing is something we do daily in our lives, and for me to have the ability to go out there and speak to students, to show them and teach them how important reading and writing is, it makes me feel amazing because it really is something we need in our lives and should be doing more,” Zach said. “It’s a very useful tool.”
Zach supports the nonprofit so wholeheartedly, a percentage of the proceeds from the sales of his sci-fi book is donated to RIF.
The accomplished teen author is also the youngest member of Arizona Professional Writers, a statewide nonprofit organization of journalists, writers, editors, authors and other professionals in the communication field.
“We hope he can benefit from meeting other authors at our educational programs,” said Carol Osman Brown, former Arizona Professional Writers state president.
While Zach is busy inspiring others, including teaching middle students creative writing, there’s one author in particular he’s inspired by: “The Book Thief” author Markus Zusak.
A few weeks ago, Zach met Zusak in person at a book signing for Zusak’s new book, “Bridge of Clay,” at Changing Hands bookstore in Phoenix.
“I surprised Zachary with a ticket to get the book and to be there for the event,” Zach’s mother Adena said. “We go there over an hour early, so we could be first in line to sit inches away from where he’d be standing.”
Zach said he’s a fan of the way Zusak writes.
“How he explains his stories just makes me want to read more,” Zach said. “He’s so creative with all of his styles … and it’s so meaningful, too, in a surprising way.”
Hesistant at first, Zach eventually gathered up the courage to hand Zusak a copy of “The Uncontrolled” – a decision he doesn’t regret one bit.
“We thought it was a silly idea at first,” Zachary said with a laugh, “but then we decided to do it, and it was a really smart idea.”
“The Uncontrolled” is available for purchase on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. You can follow Zachary on Instagram at @the_uncontrolled_novel and on Facebook at The Uncontrolled.
Zach is also available for speaking engagements through his website, theuncontrolled.wixsite.com.