FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS was so much fun to read and really quite hilarious. I liked the fact that the characters were all a little younger than what is common in YA these days. I'm no where near 14, but I had a blast reading about Kelsey, her friends, and all the trouble they managed to get into! I will be posting my review a little later today, but I wanted to share something else, first.
Even though she hasn't been feeling well, the aweome Meredith Zeitlin, , was kind enough to write an excellent post about why she chose to tell Kelsey's story during her Freshman year of high school. So without further ado...
WHY FRESHMAN YEAR?
When I started working on what eventually became “Freshman Year...,” I didn't have a specific plan in mind at all. I just sat down and started to write in Kelsey's voice and let it take me wherever it wanted to go. So I didn't really choose freshman year as much as it chose me. Or chose itself? Well, something like that.
Oh, perfect. Now I sound like a lunatic. Ah, well - moving on...
Anyway, I knew Kelsey was fourteen, so throwing her onto the high seas of the first day of high school seemed like a nice, disastery beginning point for a girl who is overwhelmed with life in general. It's such a huge change for everyone, no matter what their social standing, likes, dislikes, relationships... I mean, we're talking about going from being in 8th grade – Lords of the Middle School! -to being shunted back down to the lowest rung on the totem pole. It's nerve-wracking and it sucks and anyone who didn't feel that way on their first day is either lying or one of those people who is actually perfect. (And there's nothing the rest of us can do about THAT.)
My freshman year, which definitely inspired this story, was no exception. I started at a new school that year and had to deal with all the usual stuff plus not knowing anyone. I was a mess, of course, and had all my I HAVE A GREAT PERSONALITY, CAN'T YOU TELL?! shields up from the moment I walked through the door. Of course, I say that now, looking back from a distance of many (many) years. At the time, I thought I was fooling everyone into seeing a totally confident and awesome gal who hardly minded her horrible bangs, braces, and the nose she hadn't grown into yet. Oh, the magic of hindsight.
Anyway, once I got going with my story, I discovered another reason I wanted to write about freshman year that was more strategic: I wanted to avoid getting into certain issues that come with talking about older kids. Sex, for one thing. Yes, there is plenty of talk about sex – and there's drinking, and all sorts of other shenanigans – in this book, but no one is actually having it. Not the main characters, anyway. Which is not to say that I have a problem with those topics in books at all; it just wasn't what I wanted this book to be about. And I didn't think there was any way to write a book I considered to be realistic if I had kids who were 16 and older and none of them was engaged in sexual activity. Or drunk driving. Or any of the other more intense realities that accompany growing up. Because this was a comedic story, I didn't want to tackle any truly serious topics. So I found a way to sidestep them a little by only featuring younger characters. Hence: freshman year.
Besides– there are lots of books about 16 year olds out there already! I thought the 14 year olds of the world could use a character of their own to relate to. I hope I've provided them with one they'll like.
I ultimately had a great time in high school, FYI - despite thinking the world was out to get me every five seconds. I made wonderful friends, and joined clubs and did plays and went to parties and everything that Kelsey does. And just like Kelsey, I made a total idiot of myself repeatedly. Then I dusted myself off and started over - it was the only thing I could think of to do, really. And the disasters haven't stopped coming, by the way. Why, just yesterday I realized I'd invited over a hundred people to my book release party, and given them all the wrong address.
But that, my friends, is a different book altogether...
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