|Super cute cover, right?|
The main character, Kelsey Finkelstein, is the real deal. She is the essence of a high school freshman -- optimistic, funny, self-absorbed, prone to crushing on boys, and straddling the line between still being a middle school kid and venturing into full-on scary/awesome teenagerdom.
HELLO, REAL WORLD
Admittedly, Kelsey's cooler than I was as a freshman (parties didn't exist to me til at least junior year, and there certainly weren't any boys who wanted to kiss me), but her life is pretty average. Normal family (loving and a little quirky and oftentimes annoying), great group of friends, decent social life, everyday problems --- but FRESHMAN YEAR makes those things interesting and fun and oh-so-relatable.
BOYS, BOYS, BOYS
With all the epic epicness of OMG instalove in upper YA, it was a breath of fresh air to read about a girl with a hardcore crush (on an undeserving jerk, FYI) but who is not blind to the buffet o' boys that the world offers her. She has romantic interactions (both positive and negative, to varying degrees) with FOUR separate guys in this book... and NONE are portrayed as the be-all, end-all to her world.
THE BENEFITS OF FRIENDS
My favorite, favorite part of FRESHMAN YEAR was Kelsey's group of friends. First off, the ups and downs of their relationship far overshadowed any boy drama in the book (for this alone, I want to hug Meredith Zeitlin). They're unique without being stereotypically quirky, and I loved the realistic, ever-changing dynamic of the girls as they grew up and apart and together again. Plus, how they argued and got mad at each other was hilariously spot-on with how girls fight in high school.
|Photographs by Meredith Zinner.|
THIS GIRL'S GOT PROBLEMS
Remember when you were fourteen, and your biggest problems were that your crush wasn't crushing back and there was a mean girl on your soccer team and your mom made you buy dorky clothes and your little sister was driving you crazy? Yeah, Kelsey has those. Plus, she's dealing with issues like how far she wants to go with boys, how to let her best friend know that it's ok if she's a lesbian, and how to handle alcohol at a party. All of this is included with humor and depth and no preachy message (or judgment) whatsoever.
SUM IT UP, ALREADY!
In conclusion, Kelsey rocks. FRESHMAN YEAR is funny and breezy with subtle depth --- and it's exactly what I'd recommend to a 12-to-14-year-old girl who's outgrown middle grade novels and wants something she can relate to. For the rest of us, it's just a good time! And for Meg Cabot fans, it's like THE PRINCESS DIARIES without the whole princess thing.
SO THE REVIEW'S OVER, NOW WHAT?
Stay tuned for an awesome guest post by Meredith Zeitlin, and enter the giveaway below to win a copy of FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS! And it's available now, so put it in the shopping cart of your book-buying website of choice so that you're all ready to buy a copy of your very own if you're not the lucky winner.
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