Author: Meredith Zeitlin
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: March 1st, 2012
Interest: 2012 Debut Author / Humor
Source: ARC received from the publisher
Summary (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.
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…
I teach mostly freshmen every year, so when Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters was pitched to me I knew it would be a good fit. I saw the book trailer before I read the book, and after watching it I knew I needed to read Meredith Zeitlin’s debut right away. Kelsey Finkelstein is melodramatic, and I loved it! I couldn’t get enough of Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters; I started it and finished it in one day.
Kelsey Finkelstein is now one of my favorite snarky characters. Like I said, she’s incredibly melodramatic. Like many of the girls in my freshmen classes, and very much like I was at fourteen, Kelsey makes seemingly insignificant things into a big deal. One example of this is how upset she gets over the mysterious photographer that keeps including less than flattering pictures of her in the school newspaper. I enjoyed her reactions to these pictures because most of them aren’t even actually of Kelsey, but she’s usually in the background. Of course Kelsey’s mortified and her friends won’t let her live the pictures down. I know I’d feel the exact same way, especially about the picture where she looks like a cafeteria worker. I really liked everything about Kelsey. She doesn’t always make the best decisions, but she still faces consequences in one fashion or another. Even the way she describes things is enjoyable. Kelsey has a little sister named Travis who she finds incredibly annoying. Nine pages in we meet Travis and Cassidy, one of Kelsey’s best friends, is cooing over Travis’s pajamas. “‘You look so adorable! What a Twizzler?’ Oh, lord. My sister is like a spaniel–once you feed her, she’ll never leave.” I had already laughed a couple of times before this page, but this Kelsey quote made me snort. The snorting and laughing continued through the entire book.
Meredith Zeitlin did a really nice job including realistic issues that not only teens face, but freshmen face as well. In the beginning of Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters, the girls are discussing how they’re going to start their freshman year and make it the best year ever. They’re really focused on having a good high school experience. I’ve been working with freshmen for five years, so I know many of them have the same thoughts and feelings as Kelsey and her friends. I see it in their faces on the first day of school. I hear it in the halls. (My classroom doesn’t have a number next to the door, so I’m always reeling lost and frantic freshmen into my room on the first day of school. Getting lost is one of the girls’ concerns.) I’ve touched on some of the insecurities in regards to Kelsey and the random photos. Kelsey and her friends worry about their appearance, losing their friends, boys, etc. There are fights and the threat of losing a best friend, feeling disgusting and smelly while wearing protective sports padding, and the worry associated with being a bad kisser.
I’m positive that I’ll be able to hand this to most of the freshmen in my class without complaint because Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters appeals to so many readers. My sports fans will enjoy reading about Kelsey’s soccer experiences. My drama fans will love how everything goes down in the school’s version of Fiddler on the Roof, including a beard that looks like a “skinned rodent” and all. My readers looking for romance will enjoy Kelsey’s highs and lows in the romance department. And if any of my students want to read something funny, I’ll instantly think of this debut. I’m actually really considering Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters as a read aloud at some point.
I couldn’t get enough of Meredith Zeitlin’s fabulous debut, and I look forward to reading more of her work. Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters is a must read.
Similar Reads: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Frankie is another favorite snarky character) / Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (Sophie and Kelsey have similar personalities, even though Sophie’s a witch)