Books Reviews Young Adult

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

Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin Synopsis:

“Laugh-out-loud funny high school drama – perfect for fans of Lauren Myracle and Meg Cabot

Let’s say you’re fourteen and live in New York City. You’d think your life would be like a glamorous TV show, right? And yet . . . You don’t have a checking account, much less a personal Black American Express card. You’ve never been to a club, and the only couture in your closet is a Halloween costume your mom made from an old laundry bag.

In other words? You’re Kelsey Finkelstein – fourteen and frustrated. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled. Kelsey wants to rebrand herself for high school to make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny. But 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 and sardonic narration of her freshman year will have readers laughing out loud – while being thankful that they’re not in her shoes, of course.”

If I were a teenager today I would probably be a lot like Kelsey Finkelstein.  Or at least want to be her friend.  The fourteen year old heroine in Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters, by Meredith Zeitlin is an endearing young lady with an acerbic wit and a knack for laughing off embarrassing moments.  To be sure, Kelsey has a healthy sense of her abilities and what she wants out of life; but not in a bad way.

Unlike many teen heroines, Kelsey does not seek the company of a vampire.  Nor does she use her acerbic wit to verbally attack anyone, unless they deserve it.   Kelsey has never killed anyone, nor has she covered up a murder.  She is not ruthless in her social climbing and doesn’t secret off to an unknown parallel universe.

What Kelsey does do, is get herself into embarrassing situations, much like any normal fourteen year old would.  Kelsey also dreams about boys, dates boys, talks about dating boys, talks with her besties about boys and disobey her parents (to see boys).

I like Kelsey. You can’t help but like her.  Zeitlin infuses the character with just enough positive self esteem to allow the character to laugh at her own flaws but not become so self absorbed that she has no room to consider other’s feelings.  I also like Kelsey because she’s Jewish.  While not so blatantly New York Jewish, like Fran in The Nanny, she’s enough to make her a positive multicultural character.

I would like to have seen a little more of Kelsey’s Jewish customs in the story, other than the quick mention of helping the family write Chanukah cards and a brief mention of cousin Lainie’s upcoming Bat Mitzvah. I feel as if exploring these details a little further would give Kelsey a little more depth, but that is merely my personal preference.

Cheers to Zeitlin for providing a protagonist that appeals to young women of other faiths and ethnicities.  Zeitlin’s Kelsey made me chuckle out loud.  She also reminded me not to insist on too many “mother-daughter” moments because that would be Typical Lame Parent Behavior.

Need an additional laugh? Check out the trailer!

I give this book 4 paws!




*DISCLAIMER: I received this book from the publisher to assist in my review. All opinions are my own.*

Stay tuned for my SPECIAL interview with Meredith Zeitlin! woo hoo!


Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters and #BEA

I’m back from Book Expo America and if you haven’t heard, I laid waste to the good city of Gotham.  I read, I partied, I met lots of authors, I drank coffee and I got lots and lots and lots of goodies.

I scored so many goodies that YOU are gonna benefit!

Watch this video below for your first way to score!

Have you ever loved a book so much you want to own more than the book? Now you Can! Do you remember when I reviewed Meredith Zeitlin’s Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters? Now you can win a SIGNED Team Finkelstein tote bag like the one in the video.  You’ll be the envy of all your friends because this is a one of a kind bag!!

All ya hafta do is this: retweet my tweets. No no, not ALL of my tweets, you’ll go nutty (er) but in order to win, you must retweet one or more of the following tweets:

RT @pamlovesbooks @zeitlingeist I’m the Captain of Team Finkelstein! #FYAOUD


RT @pamlovesbooks @zeitlingeist Team Finkelstein FTW! #FYAOUD

You can RT as many times as you’d like.

OPTIONALLY, you can enter thru Rafflecopter (not required).  Contest begins June 19th and is open for two weeks.  When it’s over, I’ll aggregate the tweets and pick a winner.  I hope it’s you!
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Books Reviews



I’m a big fan of the Ford 99 test.  What is it? Open your book to page 99.  Look at the first line of that page; this is the page the author discusses.  I thought this would be an interesting way to get inside the mind of the author. My review of the book is here.

Page 99 of Freshman starts with the line

you!” I’m not in the mood for threats from a nine-year-old, thank you very much.

Hmmmm, I wonder what the author was thinking when writing this text?  Let’s find out from Meredith Zeitlin herself!

Ah, the aftermath of the Great Friend Betrayal. It’s this huge jumble of feelings for Kelsey – fury, self-loathing, confusion… but the overall mood is general suckage. I mean, she got hit with a double-edged sword, right? Losing not only her crush… but discovering it’s at the hands of one of her besties!? SO. NOT. OKAY.

Then, she gets a night of troubled sleep, throughout which she’s clinging to the 1% shot that the whole thing will have turned out to be a dream… and she gets blasted out of that unreality by her sister, of all people. An individual for whom the world’s biggest problem is that there isn’t a “That’s So Raven” marathon on TV that day. Like Kelsey needs to see her at this moment?!

Then she’s awake and has to deal with the truth. Again. She can’t stop thinking about it. She wants to… but she CAN’T. It’s like if you stub your toe. You want it to not hurt any more, but you have to keep touching the spot to check and see if it still hurts. Yep – it does. And… Repeat.

So Kelsey shifts gears into the very popular “let’s try and think about this logically so I don’t have to feel my feelings!” mode. Working it out. Asking the important questions. Willing it not to be true. Kelsey does a lot of brain-sifting throughout the book. She usually ends up right back where she started – her feelings – but she never stops trying to rationalize her way out of them.

So, first things first: Jordan doesn’t like her. Skip over “Why the hell not?!” and go straight to “Whose fault is this!?” Lexi makes sense, right? Kelsey could deal with being skipped over for a super-model type. Her brain can process that. But Cassidy… is normal. Just like her. Which means… ipso facto, Kelsey must ACTUALLY be subpar! And subpar compared to a girl who has ALL THESE FLAWS!? How can that be true!??!?!


And that’s the end of the page. Kelsey has, like, three more pages of rationalizing, but I’m not allowed to talk about that here. (Blame Pam, you guys. She picked this topic. I wanted to do the “Ford 99-115” test, but she yelled at me and I was afraid.)

Here’s some top-secret insider info, though – Cassidy’s list of flaws was originally different. But my editor thought it was “too mean.” The publisher didn’t want anyone to think Kelsey was mean, ever. I thought that was pretty silly, since people are, in fact, mean sometimes. Especially when they are sad, or hurt, or furious. These thoughts were just in Kelsey’s head – she didn’t email them to the whole school (now THAT would’ve been mean)! But I picked my battles in the editing process, as one must – so I changed it.

Then there’s poor Keith, who Kelsey totally used to get back at Jordan (who didn’t know he was even involved, of course). She knows she didn’t treat Keith very fairly, but she can’t process that part yet.  Sometimes other people’s feelings have to fall by the wayside when your own are hurt. I don’t think Keith was originally mentioned in this scene, but I had to throw him in so Kelsey wouldn’t seem mean. (See above.)

And that’s it. Did I pass the Ford 99 test?!?! I hope so. And I hope you’ll all go read the other 281 pages to find out what happens to ol’ Kelsey. It does get better for our girl… but not before it gets much, much worse. Happy reading!

Isn’t that just like a young teenage girl: ignoring someone else’s feelings because all she can think about is her own? Thanks MZ!

So friends, that’s Meredith Zeitlin.  To be sure, I didn’t yell at her. I may have strenuously suggested she follow my edicts suggestions. It’s all perspective.

I’m very happy with the insight I’ve gained from this exercise, aren’t you? It’s just as I pictured in my brain.  I am glad that Kelsey was not allowed to be mean outside of her head.  She’s a good kid and her perspective is refreshingly normal.  I’m a little tired of the whole mean girl phenomenon.

If you wanna be Zeitlin’s bestie like me, follow her on Twitter @zeitlingeist, she’s really funny!  Additional information about Zeitlin’s book can be found at, do check it out.

Also, Go. Read. the. Book. If you have a teenage girl, like I do, you’ll laugh and squirm in your seat. How fun is that?

p.s.  I LOVE That’s So Raven.