Thursday, 23 February 2012

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters - Meredith Zeitlin

Published on 1st March 2012

There are times when I love being a girl where I can just sit back, relax, and read books such as these where I am SO glad I'm not in their situation. Such a nice feeling that while I'm reading, I'm not the only person to embarrass themselves severely in public.
A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher. And after seeing this appear on a dozen other book blogs with positive reviews, I thought it was a book I could not refuse to review.
I like the cover of this book and it does give an idea of the contemporary and chick-lit aspects to it but I don't think it does it complete justice. What clinched it for me? The book trailer (scroll down to the bottom of the post to see it yourself!). That does do it justice.

Synopsis: In her 14 years, Kelsey Finkelstein is frustrated as her plans are always ruined with the intervention of her annoying parents and younger sister. But with the start of high-school coming up, with the help of her friends - Em, Cass and Jojo - Kelsey plans to make this year the best year. While things start out great - her enemy moving away and being on the soccer team - it soon goes pear shaped. With a junior looking for revenge and a mysterious photographer photographing every embarrassing moment - just to name a few disasters - Kelsey's plan for greatness seems far from reach.

Review: Wow - well, Kelsey's first year at high-school was a riot. This girl is one of those people we see frequently in books and TV shows where you are SO glad you are not them because of the continual bad luck they have.
For me, this book doesn't really have a well oiled detailed plot to it - but is more of an exploration of Kelsey's first year and looking all the potential situations and occurances that COULD happen. In a way, this is a survival guide for those entering this stage of adolescence. This actually works I think and makes it stand out for me against other books much like this one.

The main characters were all original yet are very identifiable and almost stereotypical for the first-day-at-big-school-with-big-group-of-friends novels, TV shows and films. You have the tomboy (Jojo), the dramatic one (Cass) and then the caring one (Em) which make this lovely group of friends even though they are all quite different from one another. These traits I felt weren't characterised straight away, as the beginning was the context and of us meeting and forming a bond with Kelsey, the protagonist. However, boy, their personalities shine through later on - in a good way.
Even the minor characters all have the conventional personalities such as Lexi as the popular, privileged one. I liked this recognisability and it felt nice just to read a book that is definitely going for the girls.

I have read some reviews where the reviewers were laughing out loud at Kelsey's misfortunes but honestly, for me, I wasn't laughing that much. I found them amusing but I was cringing for Kelsey more than laughing (although the beard scene did get a chuckle). There was definite humour there - just nothing that hilarious for me anyway.
My only other problem was that for me Kelsey seemed much older than 14. I know the whole point is she was trying to be older than she actually was. Maybe it's because I'm 17 now and it was only a few years ago I was that age, but I don't know - there were things I wouldn't have dreamt of doing. To me, she seemed around 15/16 - perhaps older.

Apart from my nick-picking, this book is great. The fast pace keeps you interesting in Kelsey and as a protagonist, she was interesting and not annoying (although her demands made me want to slap her a couple of times). She didn't whine excessively and I understood everything she felt and went through - and started feeling for her a bit. The ending is done nicely and when starting the book, I expected it but I think some readers may not. It is a nice round-off to the book.

Overall, apart from a few problems about this book, I found it a fun, quick read where Kelsey's voice kept me wanting more and more. Kelsey's antics keep coming throughout and made me want more and more as well as starting to ponder what ELSE would go wrong. She is a lovely protagonist that makes you interested and different from other, sometimes annoying, 14 year olds. Even though she did seem older than 14, I liked this as well, let's face it, name me a teenager that doesn't try to act older?!
If you ever wanted a book to cheer you up, I think you've just found it.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this in exchange for a review.

I give it 4 out of 5

Author's Website:
Pages: 288
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Challenges: None

Check out HERE the interview with Meredith Zeitlin herself as part of The 5 Questions feature. 

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