Friday, 16 March 2012

Book Review & Author Interview-Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

Title: Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters
 Author: Meredith Zeitlin
Series:  N/A
Published: 1 March 2012 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Length: 288 pages
Warnings: a little kissing, 12+
Source: Publishers
Other info: This is Meredith’s debut novel, but she’s also narrated a Goosebumps audiobook.
Summary : 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. 
Review: Kelsey Finkelstein is your average fourteen year old. Average, aside from the fact that bad luck follows her everywhere. So starting as a Freshman is a perfect time to make a clean start, and be the girl she’s always wanted to be. Isn’t it? With the way her love life, her friends’ love lives, her acting career and her high school fame is going, maybe not...
This is definitely out of my comfort zone. No zombies, lycanthropes or serial killers makes this a very different read for me. I wasn’t sure how well I’d get on with this, but I turned out to be pleasantly surprised. 
From the start, we get a good idea of Kelsey, her friends and what they’re all like. Kelsey is quite a talkative girl to say the least, with a distinctive style of narrating everything. I’m quite amazed at Meredith for being able to carry on  writing in Kelsey’s voice throughout the whole novel.
Due to the fact I’m not used to this kind of book, it took me a fair bit of time to notice that some of it was actually the main plot. Some of the things at the start didn’t strike me as fitting in with everything, and I couldn’t see where some of it was going. It soon picks up, once we properly meet Ben, starts auditioning for the school play and so on.
A lot of things happen to her which are all really funny. Well, maybe not for her. But for someone reading about her, it is definitely a lot of fun. And while some things are really way out unrealistic, there are others on another scale that I could see happening perfectly with this story.
The romance in this is your typical “girl pines for somebody, but ends up with true soul mate after realising pine-worthy boy wasn’t for her” story. Which really worked for Kelsey, and it was nice seeing her have something good happen to her for once.

Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a book that is a lot of fun and a good pick-me-up (my life is not as bad as Kelsey’s. I’m ok.) that will make you laugh a lot.
Links: | The Book Depository | Goodreads | Author website |

And Meredith was also kind enough to answer some questions about herself and Freshman Year...

Twitter style-describe Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters in less than 140 characters. The hilarious tale of Kelsey Finkelstein's (mostly disastrous) adventures as a high school freshman.

What made you write about contemporary school life? Well, I really wrote the book as a response to the huge stack of YA books appearing at the time that I thought were fun but totally unrealistic - all these ultra-sophisticated girls with tons of money and insane clothes and very adult sexual relationships... that wasn't at all what my high school experience was like, and I thought teens should have a character who wasn't so fancy and perfect that they could relate to. 

What was the hardest thing about writingFreshman Year? Getting to the end. Before I realized I had an actual book, I just worked on it when I felt like it and played around. Then all of a sudden, I had to actually FINISH it, and I fell apart a bit. I'm the world's worst procrastinator, and will constantly get lured away by an episode of Law and Order I've seen 15 times...

How long did writing Freshman Year take?The first draft took about 6 months, writing on and off whenever I felt like working on it. Once the book was sold, the editing process - for a lot of reasons, most of them out of my control - took about 4 years. (That's a whooooole other story...)

Is there anything special you have to have while writing? DISTRACTIONS! Usually I listen to music or have the TV on when I work. I need my brain to be just a bit distracted. Oh - and candy. 

What are/were your favourite authors, and did they influence you in writing FreshmanYear? There are many authors I love, but not a lot of them influenced this particular book because they write such very different things (serious literary fiction, sci-fi, whatever). I guess I'd say the ones that inspired me for this project were the ones I loved growing up. Judy Blume, Paula Danziger, Lois Lowry. Other style influences are probably Louise Rennison and Helen Fielding. 

Did you find little bits of yourself going in to  Kelsey, or any of the other characters? Oh, absolutely. Kelsey is totally based on me, and most of her experiences were my own. The other characters not as much, but since most people share pieces of themselves with their close friends anyway, I guess you could say that indirectly I'm in there, too. 
If you could be any character in FreshmanYear, who would it be and why? Hm. Well, I always wanted to be Lexi when I was that age - the perfect-looking, charming girl who is universally adored and has everything come so easily to her. But now I think I'd choose JoJo. I admire her uniqueness and her strength, and how happy she is to be herself.

Where did the title come from? The original title was "The World vs. Kelsey Finkelstein," and then later "This Just In: Kelsey Finkelstein is Freaking Out." But the publisher wanted something that sounded older and had "freshman year" in it, so I started brainstorming - with the help of some VERY patient friends! - and eventually... I thought of the title the book has now. I had just discovered a show (which I love, btw) called "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret," and I loved the rhythm of that name. I tried to find something that was similar in feel.

Take Kelsey and four other characters. Who would you like to play them if Freshman Year ever became a film? You know, I don't have any idea! I actually think I'd rather the actors be newcomers, so they could really create the characters without reminding anyone of their previous work. 
Who's your favourite character? Well, if I say Kelsey I'll sound like an egomaniac... if I say her mother, maybe I'll win points with my ownmother, which could be good... hrm. I think the truth is that I don't have a favorite. Each character serves a purpose - usually to move Kelsey's story forward - that is important for its own reason. I did love writing Julie Nelson and her BFF Ned Garman, though. It's always fun to write the horrible mean characters. 

Anything else you want to say? Thank you so much for reading and promoting the book! This is my first foray into the arena of novel-having (a word I just made up, obv) and I'm so appreciative for how supportive the blogging community has been. You guys are rad.


  1. Great review and interview! Im so excited for this book, I have a feeling I will love it!

  2. I've been looking for something fun and light-hearted, so I think this would be perfect! Thanks for the great review and interview :).

  3. This book may be a little too young for me, but it still sounds very fun and I enjoyed reading your thoughts about it. I love reading about author's writing processes too.


Thanks for taking time to read this!
Comments are much loved.
Nina xxx

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