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.
Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters is one of those books that makes me want to delve deeper into a genre. It’s a contemporary, a genre I don’t read much, and I really connected with it, something that doesn’t happen very often when I read something ‘contemporary’. It’s not just about a fourteen-year old girl and the drama she experiences in her freshman year of high school. It’s about finding and keeping friends, honesty, loyalty, and trust. It sounds pretty deep but it’s written in such a hilarious and light-hearted way that as a reader I wasn’t overcome by the concept of ‘the bigger picture’ but I definitely felt reaffirmed by its presence.
On the face of it, Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters is a book detailing the high and low points of Kelsey Finkelstein’s freshman year. She is determined and makes it very clear, from the beginning of the book, that the year will be awesome, that she will accomplish things, and finally make her mark, all things I can really understand and relate to. How many of us went into schools, camps, or situations, absolutely determined that we would make sure only good things happened? Of course, we all know things didn’t always go as planned and I think that’s what really drew me into the book. Not the idea of seeing Kelsey fail but rather seeing how she’d roll with the punches and whether she’d get back up and try again.
Now, the book’s written in the first person, always a favourite for me, and present tense, something that either really gets to me or works for me. In this case, this combination brought the reader fully into the mind of the protagonist, Kelsey, and that along with a great flow really made Kelsey’s voice, the main one heard, to be extremely distinct, a huge plus.
My first opinion of Kelsey was that she was a little over dramatic, extremely excitable, and just a little immature, such that she reminded me of myself at that age. When she was happy, I was happy, when she was nervous, so was I, and when she was downright flabbergasted, I was jumping up and down in excitement to figure out what she’d do next. She is so extremely endearing that I could never think of her in the wrong. I hates everyone who hurt her and loved everyone she loved. In short, I thought she was brilliant even if she could be frustratingly oblivious at times.
The other characters were reasonably well-written. I had trouble picking up differences between the voices of Kelsey’s three best friends: Em, Jojo, and Cass. I also thought Julie and Ned seemed very flat for most of the book, but when you’re the high school bad guys I guess that comes with the territory.
Did I mention how emotionally-invested I was in this book? Seriously. Nothing exciting or upsetting could happen without me getting excited or upset right along with it. I even found myself laughing out loud a couple times even though that earned me a few weird side glances. I feel like it can all be attributable to Kelsey and her distinct voice and the fact that she feels so extremely real to the reader.
I’ve decided to give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It really is a good read with factors such as a good flow, a great protagonist, and the overall hilarious nature of the story. It is truly one of those books that you can sit down with and really get into.
Have a great week everyone! I hope you enjoyed the review.
Disclaimer: This e-galley was received from the author, Meredith Zeitlin, in exchange for an honest review.