Freshmen by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison (DRC): College Life and Coming Strife


3 stars

Phoebe can’t wait for everything’s to come with college–she’ll be better than ever and maybe have a chance with her childhood crush Luke who is conveniently attending the same college as her.

Luke finds himself redefining who he is and dumping his long-term, long-distance girlfriend, as well as changing nearly everything about his life, except for soccer.

But, when things start looking up, drama heads Phoebe and Luke’s way as rumors about the Wall of Shame, a secret text chain run by Luke’s soccer team with compromising photos of girls, spreads. The women on campus are determined to expose the team and shut it down, and Luke and Phoebe are left grappling with confusing feelings and unsureness about whether they’ll make it through freshman year.

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I read this really quickly in one night (there’s just something about contemporaries and nighttime that really works for me) and I did enjoy reading it.

But, there were a few things that I wasn’t peachy keen on.

I really liked how this was a college book because we’re lacking a lot of YA literature in this genre. A lot of the times when you do find a college book, it’s usually a smut college book and not something suitable for understanding that transition from high school to college.

Teen readers come to high school prepared–that’s what all this high school YA centers on. But we need more college YA and I’m so happy that this book is one of those books.

I’ve heard that it’s also loosely based off of something that did actually happen at a college, and I like how the Wall of Shame aspect was incorporated and made a central part of the novel–there are ups and downs to college life.

The characters were fine too–I couldn’t super-connect with them, but I understood where they were at and what they were doing. (Although, I liked Phoebe more than Luke.)

It’s just that part of my problem was when the Wall of Shame was introduced–it seems to have happened a little past the halfway point, if I remember correctly, and I really wanted that introduced a little earlier because of how it’s been advertised in the summary as a big plot point.

I wouldn’t have minded this if it wasn’t a huge summary point, and I do think there are benefits on not dwelling on it for too long. Although this is a serious thing, Ellen and Ivison managed to keep it from getting overly tense while still treating it as something that is serious.

My main problem with this story was Luke and his character arc. I liked Phoebe’s character growth–I think she learned a lot of things that year–but Luke’s brought up some issues with me.

I just felt like he didn’t grow enough or truly understand the repercussions of his actions and his silence about the Wall of Shame and didn’t learn enough from it.

Like, Phoebe, hun, I get it. He’s your childhood crush. But he’s also a dickwad.

He didn’t grow enough or feel enough shame for his silence despite him knowing and I wanted to see him grow without the end goal of getting Phoebe back. I wasn’t convinced at the end that he had grown enough to truly make a difference, and this made the story feel incomplete (or you could say that it portrayed a bad message for boys).

I felt like Luke’s storyline needed a lot of work, but I did enjoy the rest of the novel and sped through this in one night. It’s a good slice of college life and I enjoyed reading this and getting that familiarity with college that I had with high school.

Overall, I think this is a good book if you’re looking for college YA, but I do think if you do decide to read it, don’t take Luke as a role model because his actions and behavior aren’t what they should be.

Thank you so much to Delacorte Press/Random House & Netgalley for providing me with a digital review copy of this in exchange for an honest review!

much love, vicky

What college YA books have you read? Which ones would you recommend?

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