Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

 Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

Standalone or Series: Standalone
Author: Meredith Zeitlin
Reading Level and Genre(s): YA Contemporary
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin)
Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Source: Publisher for review
*Note: The text featured in this post is from an Advanced Reader's Copy (ARC). Changes may have been made in the final proof.
So, let's say you're fourteen years old and you live in New York City.
     You don't have a checking account, much less a personal Black American Express Card. No fake ID, either -- not that you'd pass for 21 in a million years even if you did. The only couture in your closet is a Halloween costume your mom made out of an old laundry bag when you were eleven. You've never been to a club, or had a drink served in a martini glass or, frankly, done anything really NYC-ish at all.
     In other words? You're me: Kelsey Finkelstein.
     But don't despair, people—I'm starting high school in less than a week! This is going to be the year that I live up to all of my untapped potential—finally.
Looking at the premise for the book, I pictured a cute book narrated by a funny, quirky, over-dramatic girl who thought that her issues were the biggest and only issues in the world (because isn't that what every teenager thinks?). And I was right. Kelsey Finkelstein is about to be born again when she enters the daunting world of high school, and she's ready to tackle it and have the best year ever. But of course, she is met with the typical challenges of traitorous best friends, bullying upperclassmen, and some extremely awkward "wrong place, wrong time" photo situations that keep her from reaching her highest potential.

The thing that brought this book down for me was the voice. Kelsey Finkelstein was whiny and immature, often to point of being not funny (it was just too annoying). While I understand the author wanted to capture the voice and mind of a "Typical Adolescent," I felt it was overdone. Not only that, but Kelsey jumped between sounding like a 10-year old and using cuss words while talking about controversial topics such as sex and drinking. When those unsavory words made their occasional appearance within the text, it felt awkward, like a little girl wearing her mom's shoes. They just didn't fit her formerly younger voice.

Which brings me to another point. Like many books, Kelsey addresses the idea of sex and how she fears everybody else has done it except her (which we all know is not true anyways). She's afraid to do it, and I applaud her for that. What bothered me was her casualness with drinking. Since when to freshmen just hop over to a friend's house and drink beer? And then, after a violent encounter between heavy glass bottle and tooth gets let off easily with barely a reprimand from Mom? I don't think that's a very realistic situation. If I ever got drunk and broke half my tooth off, my mom would kill me. The thing I would most fear would not be dying of embarrassment at school the next day, but filicide (who's being overly dramatic now?).

The end is what saved this book. Kind of. It finished well enough that I was able to forgive some of what I had just read, but it was still a little too abrupt. Julie, the main bullying upperclassman, is a topic that I wish was broached upon a little more. All we know is that she has evil inclinations towards freshmen (for no reason whatsoever.... made no sense to me at all) and has bushy eyebrows. Oh, but then she gets drunk and Kelsey helps her, so Julie is somewhat human to her... but then acts like a *bad word* again when the other upperclassmen come in. I'm still confused.

There was one seriously LOL scene in this book. The part during the play with the whole beard situation. The problem was, I was reading this during TAKS testing. As in, that annual state-mandated, school board-regulated examination. So I had to hold in my laughter and ended up sounding like I was doing some weird combination of hyperventilating, crying, and gasping.

In conclusion, this book presented me with nothing new or particularly fascinating. Nothing worth special mention stuck with me, and all I can truly remember is her annoying voice. This book would probably be enjoyable to middle school readers, because they're always been interested in what high school is like... oh but wait, we have many mentions of drinking and sex. Which is probably not appropriate. All I can say is, read at your own risk.

P.S. The whole Ben situation made no sense to me. (This brings me back to the too-short-and-abrupt book thing.)

First Line:
Here it is, practically mid-September, and it's still too hot to live.

Random Quotes/Excerpts:
"Em, what is going on?" She wipes at her face as the tears come faster, and people are starting to look at us. I know how much Em hates to be the center of attention, so I quickly grab her books from her and steer her toward the girls' bathroom. Once we get inside, she totally falls apart, sobbing.
Disclaimers: Per the FTC regulations, please note that iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books does receive books for review for free by publishers or authors. For every book reviewed – whether sent by publisher, author or books purchased, it will be graded with a clean and open mind. A free book received will not influence any opinion of the contents of the book.
Spoilers may or may not have been present in this review. While iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books does review honestly, reviews are not specifically checked for spoilers. Attempts at avoiding spoilers are made, but not all are removed or fixed. This disclaimer is a general statement placed on all reviews as a warning to those who read them.


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