Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review: Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

Title:  Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters 
Author:  Meredith Zeitlin
Genre:  Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher:  G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Format:  Ebook (provided by publisher)
Release Date:  March 1, 2012

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 (summary courtesy of Goodreads).

Kelsey just really wants her first year of high school to be the year; the year she shines on the soccer team, the year her crush finally realizes she’s alive and the year that everything will change for the better.  She is determined to make her dreams come true. But first she has to contend with her mom—well-meaning but clueless and constantly embarrassing, a junior who seems to have put Kelsey at the top of her “people I love to hate” list, a newspaper photographer with a knack for taking the wrong picture and the changing dynamics of her long-time group of friends. Maneuvering her way through the first year of high school may be more difficult than Kelsey ever imagined.    

Once in a while, a book comes along that makes you smile and leaves you with a good feeling deep in your soul. Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters is that book. I fell in love with this book almost immediately. Kelsey Finkelstein is the perfect teenager; she is bitingly sarcastic, funny and absolutely convinced that everything is about her. Zeitlin is able to completely grasp the concept of an awkward teenager making her way in the world and she accurately portrays exactly what a fourteen-year-old high school student is thinking and feeling.  Because of Zeitlin’s outstanding writing, the reader can practically hear what Kelsey’s mom refers to as “Typical Adolescent Behavior” coming through the pages. It’s been awhile since a book actually made me laugh out loud, but Freshman Year did just that. I am pretty sure the lady in the car next to me who saw me laughing hysterically while I waited for my son to get out of school thought I had recently escaped the insane asylum. No, that was just me enjoying the heck out of this book!

Kelsey Finkelstein just might be my new hero. She spouts some of the best one-liners I’ve ever read. Two of my favorites:  “Well, isn’t that the cherry on my sundae” and “Goody gumdrops. Pardon my elbows as I shove to the front of the line for that choice opportunity.”  Kelsey is perhaps one of the most dynamic characters I’ve read in a long time in a young adult novel. She actually learns from her mistakes and obviously grows as a person throughout the course of the novel. She’s not stagnant and unchanging; she makes mistakes, figures out what she did wrong and tries to make it better. The dynamic of Kelsey’s group of friends, Em, Cass and JoJo, is also played out very well. Zeitlin manages to show the reader what a real group of girls in high school is like as friends. They argue, they disagree and they sometimes do stupid things to each other, but in the end, the real friendships shine through.

Perhaps my favorite thing about this book is that Zeitlin doesn’t pull any punches or try to sugar-coat the high school experience. Guess what? Sometimes crappy things happen to good people who have the best intentions. Sometimes things work out for the best and sometimes they don’t. Life isn’t an episode of iCarly or Victorious, it’s not always fixed in half an hour. Zeitlin gives the reader a chance to see what life is like for a real girl who is dealing with real problems, and she does it in such a way that we as readers actually forget we are reading the story of a fictional character. Kelsey Finkelstein connects with the reader on a personal level, especially with the teenage girl who doesn’t think anything ever goes right in her life. Reading this book will not only make that teenage girl laugh, but it will give her someone she can relate to as well.  

I found Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters to be a fun, quirky and entertaining read. It was extremely funny, yet poignantly realistic. There is some mild language, teen drinking (which, coincidentally never ends well) and minor sexual content (kissing mostly).  I recommend this book for ages 14 and up. I do have one question, though. Where has Meredith Zeitlin been hiding and when can we expect more from her?

My grade for Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin: 


  1. This seems like an awesome read! I'm so glad that you enjoyed it! I've heard so many good things about this book, can't wait to get my hands on it! Thanks for the amazing review, Amie! <3

  2. Thanks for your review. I can't wait to get to Freshman Year...
    The trailer is awesome but it would be nice to have the N's voice sound like a teen.


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