Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 288 pages
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…
Meredith Zeitlin’s Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters was like a walk down high school memory lane and I remembered my own freshman year (mis)adventures. The book’s heroine, Kelsey Finkelstein, is an incoming high school freshman and she’s planning to make her mark. This means going up to the next level and rebranding herself, even if her family is being impossible to her. With her friends behind her and her middle school rival out of the way, Kelsey is determined to be a new person in high school and maybe even catch the eye of her long-time crush. If only it were that easy! Soon she finds herself at the receiving end of a junior’s wrath and the subject of a mysterious school paper photographer (that always catches her in her worst moments) among others. Will Kelsey ever be able to do what she wants to do with all these catastrophes?
Ah freshman year. Those were the days. My freshman year in high school was a memorable one, only because I was pretty much excited at being a high school student. I considered transferring to another school when I graduated elementary but I eventually decided not to because most of my friends stayed in the same school. My parents just suggested it to me, in the end I stayed, which was a good thing too, because staying in my small high school made me one of the achievers. :P That’s what being in a small school (4 sections per batch with 35-40 students each) does, I guess. Anyway, I was surprised at the number of new students in my class, though, which almost made me as a new student too because my other friends were distributed to the other three sections. There were so many awkward moments in the first days because we were all trying to get to know each other, and pretty soon, I found a comfortable group of friends.
The happy moments didn’t really last long — I think puberty tends to make teens a lot cranky and bitchy to one another. I often call my freshman year as a year when I became almost like a war freak. Not because I would go and pick fights but for some reason I end up being a part of some petty fights! There was a particular time when I tagged along with my best friend from another section because some people from our group was mad at me and they managed to get everyone else to hang out with them leaving me behind. There were also times when I’d be a part of the group who leaves someone behind and then we’d have a confrontation of sorts. There were so many misunderstandings between the groups of friends, about things that I can only think of as petty when I remember them now.
Oh but don’t get me wrong — my freshman year was pretty fun overall, despite all those petty fights. I ended the year on a good note, and my friends and I all made up before the year ended. I remember feeling pretty sad that freshman year was ending and it was the only time we can be called freshman ever again. Until college, that is (and I loved college).
Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters gave me that bittersweet feeling of being back in high school again, and a huge relief that I wasn’t there anymore! Kelsey is a vibrant narrator — a classic 14-year old girl who wants to make things different for herself. I saw myself in her (although I saw my sophomore self, not freshman) and if my 14-year old self read this, I bet I would have wanted to be friends with Kelsey. However, at my age now, I wanted to reach in the book and hold her back, to tell her to relax and that it will be okay. Those disasters weren’t really disasters, and she could treat her family better. But knowing myself during 14 and Kelsey? I doubt she’d listen. :)
I liked the cast of characters around Kelsey, although I thought some of them felt a little bit like the typical TV high school cast — the bully, the hot guy (who didn’t turned out to be so hot at all) and the annoying sibling. Still, I think they were able to play their roles well. I liked Kelsey’s friends and how they often emphasized how their friendship is more important than boys, and even if one of them put a boy first, they were still all there for each other afterwards. I was pretty shocked at what they are doing at the age of 14-15 though — getting drunk? Partying like crazy? Discussions about spray on tanning and the like? It never happened when I was at that age — to me, anyway. Okay fine, I was that age 12 years ago so this comment doesn’t really count anymore. Who knows what high school kids are doing now? I’m just not used to it, I guess. The first time I had alcohol was 16 (and it was a teeny-tiny shot that gave me a headache). :P
There were just some times when I thought the book felt a little long for my liking, but since it covers an entire year of high school, I guess it had to be that way. I didn’t always like Kelsey, but she grew on me by the end of the book. Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters is a fun read if only you’re willing to go down your own memory lane and remember your own high school experiences. It ended on a pretty open note which leaves a lot to the imagination. However, if Ms. Zeitlin will come out with sophomore, junior and senior year books for Kelsey and her friends (preferably narrated by her other friends too), then I would definitely be in line to get them to know what happens next. :)
My copy: ebook review copy from publisher