by Meredith Zeitlin
Kelsey and her three best friends are days away from entering high school and Kelsey has made a decision: this year will be the Year of Dreaming Big. She’s going to get a starting spot on the JV soccer team! And finally get her crush, Jordan, to notice her! And not let her mom embarrass her!
But it’s never that easy and Kelsey will need her positive attitude and BFFs to get through this crazy freshman year.
This book seriously grew on me. I was having some major issues with it for about 50 pages, but Kelsey’s Never Say Die attitude finally won me over and I gave in and started to enjoy it for what it is: a fun read about the embarrassments of high school and the awesome friends that get you through it.
My biggest issue was how predictable the love triangle was – I immediately knew what was happening, what was going to happen and how it was going to play out. That was unfortunate. Since this started so early in the book, it was really off-putting. It also didn’t help that I found the characters to be acting/talking/being older than 14 years old. I really would have liked it better on the whole if this was their junior year, rather than freshman.*
As I mentioned before, I started out feeling super apprehensive about where this book was headed. But Kelsey, among other things, really won me over. She is a charming, naive and slightly spastic character. She is constantly getting herself into embarrassing situations – and does her best to make the most of it. She wasn’t selfless, nor was she selfish. I thought Zeitlin did a great job of indicating that Kelsey cared about her friends, but still worried about her own issues just as much. (There was a scene with Kelsey on the phone with her friend who was gushing about her boyfriend and Kelsey’s mind wandered to her OWN issues with guys. Selfish, sure, but pretty spot-on.)
Kelsey’s quirks may have won me over, but the icing on the cake, for me, was Zeitlin opting to include both sports and the arts as activities for her characters. Kelsey plays soccer AND tries out for the school musical (incidentally, it was the musical stuff that really made me adore Kelsey), and she has both good and bad experiences with both extracurriculars. There are a lot of books about sports and a lot of books about the arts – but to have 1 book include them both (and not in an My-Main-Character-Is-Just-That-Awesome kind of way) was great.
So, in sum, I had some major reservations but ended up enjoying this debut. I also really, truly think the reservations were mine alone and if you put this into the hands of a YA, chances are good they’ll enjoy it.
Where this book came from: e-galley review from the author
Published by: Putnam Juvenile, available now
*Digression: This is a gripe I mostly blame Gossip Girl for: mis-aging the characters. I don’t doubt there are some freshmen who act like all the freshmen act in FY&OUD, or even in GG, but having them all be 14 and super-mature seems bonkers to me. Every time I am reminded of the character’s age, I am completely thrown off. I also understand that this is a thing that bugs me in particular. It’s a ME issue. I am not 14 years-old and haven’t been for awhile. So, you know, take it with a grain of salt. Digression over.