Kelsey Finkelstein intends to have the PERFECT freshman year, but the 9 months that follow her foray into the dramatic world of high school are anything BUT perfect. After a long series of mishaps stretch from soccer tryouts to the prom, Kelsey is ready for freshman year to be over. Kelsey’s token sarcasm, humor, and general flair for the dramatic make her a likable character. Zeitlin’s debut novel offers an honest portrayal of the realities of high school: friends, parties, drinking, drugs, dating, family. While drinking and drugs make their appearances, they aren’t glamorized in such a way as to encourage teens to try it out for fun. Drinking is accompanied by nausea and drugs by arrest. A light-hearted read that’s sure to endear itself to many teenage and older readers.
Zeitlin’s debut novel incorporates a coming-out story into the back-drop of a bigger narrative about life and growing up. The focus of Zeitlin’s story is relationships, especially that of three best friends as they venture into the uncharted waters of high school. Kelsey, Cass, and JoJo are a tight trio of friends who experience their share of bumps as they begin high school. Kelsey and Cass suspect that JoJo might be gay but don’t want to rush her when it comes to telling them. JoJo, it turns out, simply couldn’t find the right way to tell her friends her secret. The portrayal of friendship and the difficult decision to share that kind of secret with them is portrayed well, despite the fact that it comes from a secondary character. While the potentially larger ramifications of JoJo’s revelation to a broader audience (family, school, community) are not explored, it seems sufficient in this setting and story to know that her friends love and accept her for who she is, no matter what.