Friday, March 9, 2012

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

[description from goodreads]

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…


My memories of freshman year are few and rather hazy, which makes me wish even more that ninth grade was as hilarious and memorable for me as it is for Kelsey in Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters. 

Georgia and the Ace Gang seem to have met their match with Kelsey and her friends; these girls aren't quite as zany (or delightfully British) but get in just as many hilariously awkward and dramatic situations. Because everything is so new to Kelsey and the girls, their reactions to their environment are especially humorous; they never quite know how to deal with upperclassmen, clubs, sports, or the like, so they make the biggest missteps that always end hilariously no matter how embarrassing they may begin. Their shenanigans are made better by the distinct voice of Kelsey, who makes even the normal school days fun with her exaggerated, emotionally charged, snarky commentary. Sometimes she, and the stuff she gets involved in, is a bit far-fetched, but really, that's part of this book's charm.

Even though this book is nine kinds of crazy funny in the best way possible, there are a few things that prevented me from loving it completely. The novel is a bit awkwardly paced-- Kelsey sometimes skips giant chunks of time by just inserting one "a month later" into a paragraph. I appreciated that the time skipping allowed for Kelsey to experience things only available in certain seasons (fall sports, spring musical, etc.) but whenever a time skip happened I was always a bit thrown off. I also wasn't overly enthused about some of the people that came through Kelsey's life, because she views, and thus describes, them in such a limited way that it was hard for them to develop beyond their initial portrayals. Still, despite their often flat personalities, Kelsey manages to see new sides of them as the school year progresses, allowing them to affect her life in all sorts of new ways and amuse me while doing so.

It may not be groundbreaking or the best developed thing I've ever read, but Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters is consistently funny, wonderfully realistic, and always a joy to read.

Book details: Putnam/Hardcover/$16.99

Source: sent by publisher for review

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