Thursday, March 8, 2012

Book Review: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters
Release Date: March 1, 2012
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Pages: 288
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

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.


Sleepover party!

Reading Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters was like meeting up with a BFF after a year-long separation and reconnecting again at a marathon sleepover party. Kelsey's voice was so real that it felt like I was listening to a friend chat about her freshman year experiences.

Because of this chatty writing style, everything went down super easy and my reading never really dragged. This was good, because otherwise the episodic nature of the plot might have felt a little slow (and you know my LOW tolerance for slooooow plots).

There isn't really any kind of major climax or story arc to keep the plot moving forward. Instead, Kelsey's voice--which is a perfect blend of "real teen" and "hilarious running commentary"--was the main hook for me that kept me turning the pages.

I'm issuing the "Don't Read in Public" warning due to excessive laughter

Even though Major Events weren't really happening, there was still a lot going on. This is a Normal Teen Issues kind of book, so think things like awkward first kisses and having to play a really embarrassing part in the school play (to EPIC results).

Kelsey started out the book with high hopes for her freshman year, but none of them panned out quite how she planned. Mostly it was one disaster after another, and while part of me totally sympathized with her teen plights (I've so been there *groan*), the rest of me was laughing hysterically--and very much out loud--at her misfortunes.

It wasn't even like there were a few really funny scenes. It was more like a bunch of big laugh out loud scenes peppered between lots of chuckling throughout the whole book because pretty much everything Kelsey says is funny.

Kelsey is more than just a funny voice

I started out thinking the book was pretty good, but also pretty surface level. Kelsey seemed like a mouthpiece for funny comments, but she didn't seem to have much depth to her. But, this changed the more I read. I found myself liking Kelsey more and more as her personality became more distinct.

I admired Kelsey's attempts to distinguish herself during her freshman year, but even more, I admired her tenacity and "roll with the punches" attitude when her plans started to go awry.

Kelsey easily could have gotten mired in "whiny teen" (which would have been totally annoying) but instead she rose to the occasion with an understandable groan and a good dose of humor. I even found myself channeling Kelsey's attitude when things in my own life didn't go quite as planned.

Bottom line

Not only does Kelsey have a permanent invite to my sleepover party, but any book Meredith Zeitlin writes next is going on my auto-read list (meaning, I don't care what the blurb says, I'm reading that sucker).

I am also ordering a copy of Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters for my library where I will place it in the hands of every teen girl who enters the building.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Still not convinced? Check out Meredith's interview!
(Mentions of Patrick Verona and Jace Wayland inside)

Add it on Goodreads!

Buy it from your preferred bookseller!

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 
Click on the covers to go to my reviews.


  1. Wasn't that a funny and awesome read? I was so surprised I loved it so much! I mean it was so awesome, Kelsey was so freaking real and so funny - I also had to laugh out loud so often!

    This was a fantastic debut and can't wait to read more from her!

  2. Before I talk about your review (WHICH WAS AWESOME), you are the coolest librarian ever in existence. Most of mine are ancient and friendly after a while, BUT THEY WOULD NEVER recommend books to me or read YA fiction for that matter. When can you come transfer to my local library?

    Freshman Year is one of those books I've been badgering everyone and their mother about. I've read all the reviews, have been reading all the interviews, and I just want to read the heck out of this book. I can't wait to finally get my hands on it!

    (Pssst. By the way, SO GLAD YOU'RE BACK. :D)


  3. I second that review! I warned people too, not to read it out in public and not to eat or drink while reading! I loved Kelsey's ability to laugh at herself and keep going.
    She's a great character for teen girls and adults! That play, OMG that play!! Such a fun book, your review captures everything the book was about! Well done! And I'm so glad you're back. Hope you got a lot of reading done!


  4. If Kelsey and I went to the same school as teens, I would definitely be friends with her. I like how she rolls with the punches, which is something easier said than done in high school. A good sense of humor is healthy. So glad you enjoyed it and I can't wait to read it!

  5. Welcome Back! I am dying to read this one. I need a good book that will make me snort and giggle. I have read so many great reviews on this one and yours was just another reminder to get this one!

  6. Hi! I liked your reference to a sleepover. This book reminds me of sleeping freshman never lie because they are both hilarious and about exciting freshman years. I really enjoyed your review. Good job!

  7. That's Great! I'm so exited to read this book I'm going to bump it up!!
    I think I would like it and I like the chatty style too!

  8. I'm probably going to be reading this one for review next so it's good you liked it. In the midst of a month full of essays, I could use a funny book with a chatty character who has a positive attitude.

  9. Sounds like a cute book! I have lots of realistic fiction lovers in my classroom, so I will have to add this to the shelves!

    Thanks for a great review!

  10. This sounds like a super cute read. I can't wait to pick it up. I've been reading lots of good reviews for it.

  11. You have sold me! I'm now very officially STOKED to read this book! Thanks for the great review!! :D

  12. Aw, this sounds like fun! I love chatty writing, and a good sleepover guest is a good person to know. :) Love the review.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  13. Usually not my thing, but this sounds great! Nice review :)

  14. Well, good for you, you've found a contemp book you actually enjoyed! You are doing a whole lot better than me. I've not been doing backflips for me contempt reads at all. I've been more interested on just getting them done so I can get on to something different. So, from your review, I may just have to give this one a chance. Was it written in first person?


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