my thoughts in a few sentences: I don’t think I’ve laughed quite so much in one sitting! When I first heard about Kelsey in Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin, I totally suspected her voice to be too juvenile for me, and I had decided, despite the book’s appeal, that I had to brace myself because I was probably too cool for her childish antics. Turns out? Kelsey is MUCH COOLER than me. She’s impulsive, sarcastic, and very… world-weary in tone and just generally dramatic. Her thoughts are so legit and relatable, like ironic questions about the mechanics of sex, attitude toward the parental unit, and a driving need to stand out among her peers. She does a lot of stupid shizz and is the epitome of the mood-swinging teenager, but that’s just what makes Kelsey all the more tangible, makes her more than JUST another character.
hooking first line: "Here it is, practically mid-September, and it's still too hot to live."
Putnam/Penguin • Library • Contemporary Romance • 3/1/12 • $13.38
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…
Kelsey sure has a way with words
Oh, Kelsey. From the very moment you introduce the people closest to you in your life, the moment when you diss your momz for being uncool, I just knew there was something about you. Kelsey is sass personified, and I applauded her for her sheer and outstanding wit, whether in her head or aloud. She’s sooo crushing on the star soccer player but refuses to admit that her efforts of pursuit are actual efforts in that direction. Making new enemies and absorbing one of the ultimate forms of friendship betrayals and ugly first kisses that make the most civilized want to *VOM* in someone’s lap, Kelsey struggles with a whole shizzload of interesting, and hilarious, dilemmas brought on by her crazy freshman year. However, what really makes Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin unique is the way Kelsey tackles all of it. Kelsey doesn’t just merely deal with things, she gets all disgruntled and exasperated and either works around it or rams right through it.
Immaturity, irresponsible or irrational decisions, all of that factors into Kelsey’s expansive personality, which experiences a slow growth by the end of Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin, but not so much that she’s suddenly shifted into this perfect, Do Everything Properly Because I Learned Things kind of person. She’s still a teenager, and a teen in flux she shall remain, which made this book even more appreciatively true-to-life genuine. Kelsey’s backhand will always be her incomparable snark, and her impulsiveness may get her into more than a little serious trouble someday, but that’s what makes her beautifully young and plain human.
Kelsey’s friends are circular not triangular
One of the best parts of Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin are the friendships. They aren’t all the typical We’ve Been Best Friends Since We Were Lil’ Gs In Diapers, Yo kind of friends. Sure, half may fall under that category, but the other friendships just sort of blossomed as they progressed to high school. And I also love how that band of friends don’t just stick to the bffs that start the novel, but stretch out and latch onto a couple new additions along the way.
Kelsey’s constant juggling act between friends is funny and sad and real. Some friendships last, others don’t, and Kelsey struggles with this lesson, and the impossible success of forgiveness when other friendships hit the fan on their way out the door. Perfecting the art of spending equal amounts of time between bffs is extremely difficult, and there are tears and heartbreak as a result of this daunting and stressful task.
Despite everything that goes down, though, Kelsey’s friends stick together, being there for each other no matter what, knowing when to get in the middle of things and when to back away so that things can mend on their own. Kelsey’s relationships with her friends may not be perfect, but she can count on them to support her when guys bring her down, when bullies smack her around with sticks and stones. Whenever she’s weak, her friends help her replete, and that’s the way it should be. Zeitlin’s portrayal is… enviable in it’s wonderful imperfection and closeness to reality.
WHERE IS THE ROMANCE?
Like with every high school experience, there are a multitude of guys instead of just that perfect guy. There are going to be pitfalls and crushes and horrendous shades of relationships in between. Kelsey and her friends may not be boy-crazy but they like feeling their way, figuring them out, and it certainly doesn’t stop each of them from drooling over someone.
Bad crush who gets stolen, bad date with personal stalker, and Kelsey is starting to feel like the biggest loser. How impossible is it really to find the right guy to hang with? She doesn’t start wading through rivers of them to find the answer, but she does go through some… rather interesting, and sometimes, disgusting experiences. Needless to say, her boy drama levels are covered this year.
So I’m waiting patiently for that one cute kid to sweep her off her feet, when, THANKFULLY, a cute boy does come along. Though, Kelsey is anything but amused or swoony toward him. In fact, she’s pretty darn sure that he’s an arrogant prick with something up his sleeve. She, naturally, can’t help but admit how attractive he is, but refuses to acknowledge how attracted she is. Zeitlin proves by the end, however, that not every romance has to begin with sunshine, rainbows, and hot electric kisses—though they are wonderful ways to get going—and sometimes a simpler, slower start means more. Surprisingly, I was satisfied.
Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin is so enjoyable. Kelsey compounds the laughter and smiles with all the ridiculous things she does, all the clever quips and jibes, internal or otherwise, and that’s what makes her whole disastrous adventure into her first year of high school so hilarious and memorable. In a way, her tale is familiar, too.
Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin is half a Been There, Done That situation in which the experiences are not very new and half totally refreshing because of Zeitlin’s spin, Kelsey’s humor. It makes all your awesome insults at your school seem pathetic and unimaginative and definitely unfunny. Kelsey charms the laughter out, without even meaning to. And that’s what gives her, and this story, that certain engrossing pull.