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 Finkelstein and Co. (her three best friends, Cass, JoJo, and Em) are entering their freshmen years of high school and they all have big plans, though none as big as Kelsey’s. She plans to score a starting position on the varsity soccer team, finally date her long-time crush now that his perfect girlfriend’s out of the picture, and otherwise make herself known. The only problem is, the world seems to be conspiring against her. Obstacle after obstacle leaps up, forcing Kelsey to try even harder to make her freshman year special — even though it would sometimes be easier to stop trying and instead fade into the background.
I love Kelsey Finkelstein. Normally, I hate fourteen-year-old protagonists. Authors have a habit of writing young characters as much more juvenile, immature, and clueless than I remember being at fourteen and that always bothers me. But Kelsey Finkelstein is one of the most realistic fourteen-year-olds I’ve ever seen — she’s the high school freshman I wish I was and she’s the girl I can still relate to her today. She’s witty, sarcastic, and she makes so many of the same mistakes we all make — the mistakes we have to make in order to get through high school. And she can also be petty, stupid, and immature. And I loved every minute of reading about her life.
Zeitlin does a great job of making each of her characters stand out. It took me awhile to notice the difference between Em, Cass, and JoJo, but after awhile I realized they weren’t your typical stock-best-friends of the protagonist. They each had their own interesting personalities. But the secondary character that really grabs my interest is Kelsey’s mom. She’s just such a mom. Everything she says makes me laugh, especially since I remember my own mom saying a lot of the same things. And Kelsey’s responses to her mom are spot-on and hilarious. You’ll love the mother-daughter exchanges and possibly find yourself taking turns groaning along with either Kelsey or her mom.
My only problem with this book is the lack of an overarching conflict. There are a lot of small, secondary plots and twists that keep the reader engaged. The pacing is extremely fast and has you eagerly flipping pages; none of the chapters are too long, boring, or unnecessary. But by the end of the book, when I asked myself what the story was about, all I could come up with was that it explored Kelsey’s first year of high school. This seems like kind of a broad subject for a book. But, like I said, it’s not something I noticed until the end of the book, due to the fast pace and abundant conflict. Regardless, Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters is an enjoyable, laugh-out-loud read that’ll leave you smiling and wanting to reminisce about your favorite high school moments.
Publication Date : March 2012
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Teaser Quote: “It’s like the worst day of my life just became the best day of my life. Jordan Rothman just climbed a flight of stairs with the sole purpose of inviting me to a party? If the floor of the subway station weren’t so disgusting, I think I’d totally faint.”