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We Were Merely Freshmen

A book review of Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

We Were Merely Freshmen

BOOK REPORT for Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

Cover Story: Not Bad
BFF Charm: Heck Yes
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: Bring On The LOLs
Bonus Factors: Realism, High School Musicals, LGBTQ
Relationship Status: One Of The Only 14-year-olds Cool Enough To Be My Friend

Cover Story: Not Bad

It's a bit cutesy for my taste, but on a whole, it's honestly not that bad. The colors are bright and fun. And while I only vaguely recall one time is was raining, the rain theme is at least fitting with the title. This cover would definitely not draw me in, but it also wouldn't turn me away.

The Deal:

Kelsey Finkelstein is about to start high school and she has big plans. She isn't sure exactly what those plans are, but she hopes they have something to do with kicking major butt on the soccer team and finally making something happen between her and her crush4life Jordan. Except Kelsey quickly finds out life doesn't always go the way you plan and it's up to her to survive and make the best of her interesting freshman year.

BFF Charm: Heck Yes

To be honest, I was nervous going into this book. All I had was the blurb to go off of and if there is one thing that seems to be a life truth -- it's that 14 year old narrators are, objectively, THE WORST. Most narrators at that age are whiny, entitled and completely without a sense of perspective. And while Kelsey it at times all of those things, she is so hilarious that all of her ranting is delightful as opposed to aggravating. So I am happy to report back that not only does Kelsey earn my BFF charm, I have given it to her with ease. Kelsey would be that kind of friend you have, you may be telling you what may actually be a boring story, but does it with such flair and ridiculousness that it becomes a hilarious one. Plus, Kelsey seems like a ton of fun. She knows how to have a good time, but isn't too crazy, making her the perfect friend for a party, sleepover, or anything. Kelsey is really observant when it comes to other people's ridiculous behavior, so it would be fun to have her around to provide running commentary on people. She can be a bit self-involved, but always comes through for her friends when they need her. And (for the most part) I really looked Kelsey's whole group of friends.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

There's a little bit of romance here and there, but what I really enjoyed were the less sexy parts of the book. Like Kelsey's first kiss, which is horrible in a way that just seemed SO REAL. I like it when books realize that it's not all about perfectly dreamy romances and instead choose to inject some reality into the story. For example from the book - how sometimes you will make out with a guy just because you're not sure what else to do when the situation happens, and I guess why not? Even though it's kind of horrible? And how sometimes you will make out with a guy you don't know at a party and maybe it can be fun or maybe he will turn out to be awful.

Talky Talk: Bring On The LOLs

The writing style of this book reminding me of some other first person YA contemporary-comedy books out there, but that is a good thing. I even had a few truly Laugh Out Loud moments while reading this book (which is always a bit awkward to be honest). But I will let the book speak for itself. The first is from a part of the book where Kelsey justifies lying to her mom about something:

And really, lying in this specific instance is the right thing to do - I mean, there's no need to worry her. After all, she'd just have a conniption and ground me for the rest of my life, which would stunt my growth as a person. Plus I'd probably develop an allergy to Nancy the Cat from being home all the time, which would mean Travis would have to give her up and then her growth would be stunted by depression and the whole domestic unit would fall to pieces. So as much as I hate lying, I'm doing it for the good of my family. I am so proud of myself for being unselfish that after I hang up, I treat myself to a thousand Oreos. Yum.

And this is from a part where Kelsey feels betrayed by a friend and decides she will never, ever, talk to her again:

Not even if she came to me on my birthday and offered me my own house (brown, with white feet and a brown mane) and a lifetime pass to Disneyland ad the world's biggest chocolate mousse cake. And her Wii system. And a Blu-ray player. And a million dollars. And an unlimited gift card to Sephora.

Not even if she apologized on her hands and knees and offered to become a nun immediately. In the Alps.

Not even if she were in a horrible accident and was about to die and all she wanted in her final moments were my forgiveness and an opportunity to touch my hand. Never.

Bonus Factor: Realism

I was really impressed by how real Kelsey and her friends felt. I was surprised to find a book marketed toward the younger high school crowd with a realistic portrayal of alcohol and sex. Kelsey and her friends drank on occasion, for fun, but are by no means "bad girls." And while Kelsey may not be having sex herself, it doesn't mean she isn't thinking about it or wondering about other people and whether they're having it. It would have been so easy for a publisher or editor to wipe away some of the more "scandalous" parts of this story and I think it was really impressive that they chose to keep them. It made the characters seems more real. And I think it's important for YA characters to show that people can fall somewhere between "bad girl" and "goody-goody" in the spectrum of life choices.

Bonus Factor: High School Musicals

Kelsey and her friends participate in a musical and it is hilarious to read about the ridiculousness of (some) theater people from an outsider's perspective.

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ

Kelsey has a friend who may (or may not) be a lesbian and it's cute seeing Kelsey and her friends fuss over whether they should ask, or wait to be told, or what. And that either way it's no big deal, because this is friend and it doesn't matter either way.

Casting Call:

Liana Liberato as Kelsey

Relationship Status: One Of The Only 14-year-olds Cool Enough To Be My Friend

As I mentioned earlier, I was really surprised by how likeable and enjoyable this book was. If this book were a freshman and I were a senior, I would totally invite it to my parties and let this book hang out with me and my older friends. Because even though I would normally feel too mature for this book, this book has proved itself to be funny and cool enough to be around.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from G.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters will be available March 1!

Megan Crane's photo About the Author: Megan is an unabashed fangirl who is often in a state of panic about her inability to watch, read and play all the things.