Review: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled – by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends — sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo — Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny.

Things start out great – her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness… it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.

Kelsey’s hilarious commentary throughout her disastrous freshman year will have you laughing out loud—while being thankful that you’re not in her shoes, of course…

(Description from Goodreads)

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I’ll admit, I was rather skeptical of this book at first. I had downloaded the sample excerpt to my NOOK and the first few pages I found myself cringing at the writing. But I kept hearing about how funny the book was, so I decided to give it a try anyway. I’m glad I did, cause I couldn’t put it down.

The story follows the unexpected, yet hilarious happenings of freshman Kelsey Finkelstein, who has decided that her freshman year is going to be THE year that everything will be absolutely awesome and will go entirely her way. Let’s think about that for a minute: did ANYONE’S freshman year go swimmingly? Fat chance. Nonetheless, I felt myself rooting for Kelsey the entire book, even though I knew things would have a few hiccups along the way. First, there’s the soccer team troubles. Then, there’s the feuding friend fiasco. Following comes the musical mishap. Next, the being called a “prude” problem. And finally, which happens to take place during the whole book, is the unnamed photographer who appears to follow Kelsey everywhere. Oh the joy of freshman year of high school.

Kelsey manages to take everything in stride, though she does tend to overreact to practically everything; I suppose this is a typical teenage problem, as I can remember doing the same thing. When one embarrassing thing would finally go away, another would take its place. Even with friends to comfort her, it seemed like Kelsey was never given a break. However, she managed to pull away from the negative and won me over with her moving forward attitude. She was such a wonderful character; I can easily see how YA would cling to her, as she would be easy to relate to, especially at that age.

I felt my heart break for Kelsey numerous times and I found myself smiling many times when things were going well. Though there were many moments that were hilarious, and I seriously laughed out loud (most memorable was during a particular incident with a fake beard), there were also real teen issues that arose in Kelsey’s life. Sometimes I feel like authors of YA novels try to avoid writing about real teen issues, but this book faces them head-on. There are various times when Kelsey is faced with “obstacles,” such as drinking, drugs, and sex (the big three issues I would say.) Questioning herself as to whether or not she is a loser for never having sex (or even making it to second base as she states,) I can see other young adults questioning the same things of themselves. I managed to make sure I marked a page this time with a line about drinking that I just had to share. At a party, Kelsey is carrying around a red solo cup with beer in it, but because she doesn’t like the taste, she doesn’t drink it. She says, “I figure I’ll just carry it around and pretend to drink it so as not to look like a total loser. Which is really sad, since why should I have to drink beer to look cool?” (p. 57)  Amen to that, Kelsey! If only more young adults had the same thoughts.

Even though Kelsey is the narrator, the reader still learns about her three friends, Em, JoJo, and Cass (and later, Lexi.) They go through similar motions as Kelsey, though each of them also have different situations that make them all so unique. I found myself loving Em the most, as she was just so sweet and innocent and the total “I’m-Okay-With-Anything” type of friend. The other friends had great personalities and stories behind them as well; I wish I could have learned more about them.

There was quite a bit of romance, but at the same time, it was one of those confusing times in a young teenager’s life that really doesn’t exactly count as “romantic.” Kelsey goes through four guys (the last one being the keeper so it seems), not in the dating way, but in the thinking about them way. One of the guys even manages to cause Kelsey and one of her friends to fight for a good portion of the school year, which I feel is another issue young adult girls might be able to relate to. There was definitely tension, as there always seems to be during that age, and I could feel myself wanting it to turn out alright for Kelsey every single time. Poor girl needed a break every so often!

At first, I was apprehensive about the writing style of this book. I wasn’t a fan of all the capitalization and all the exclamation points and what have you. However, the more I read, the more I understood how well the writer was portraying a true fourteen-year-old girl, as they may text and even talk that very way. I ended up being rather impressed with the writing and how well the author could truly make me feel like a fourteen-year-old was talking. Kudos!

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters is a great book, especially for young adults around the age of Kelsey and her friends. I can see a young adult easily relating to the characters, as well as the scenarios. Everything was believable, yet still was over-the-top…kind of like freshman year of high school.

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