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Monday, November 10, 2014

YA Review: An Off Year

An Off Year by Claire Zulkey

Published: August 29th, 2009 by Dutton books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 213
Part of a series? Nope, it's a standalone.
Got via: I bought it off Amazon for like 4 dollars which was a great price for a hardcover, right???
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

Summary (from goodreads): Cecily has always done everything as she was supposed to: taken the right classes, gotten the right grades, applied to the right colleges. But after a lifetime of following the rules, she surprises everyone by arriving for her freshman year of college . . . and turning around. There are infinite possibilities for Cecily's unexpected gap year. She could volunteer, or travel around the world - but, for now, Cecily is content to do absolutely nothing.

What follows is a year of snarkily observed self-doubt and self-discovery during which Cecily must ask herself, for the first time, what does she really want to do with her life?

Review: Well, I learned one thing reading this - reading 3 and a half books in a day makes my vision really bad, and I have to put my glasses on to feel halfway normal. Which has very little to do with this review besides that I look adorable right now!

Right before this, I read My Sister's Keeper and bawled like a baby through like three quarters of it, so I kind of needed something a little fluffy to make me feel better and not cry into my pillow for the rest of the night. Now, I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but what with the whole pink shag carpet and bunny slippers thing this has going on, I just had a feeling this one would do the job.

Which is not to say this is completely super fluffy. It does actually tackle some pretty big issues and it does it well while sometimes making things really funny. It was a good read. I had a few things that annoyed me, but for the most part, it was an enjoyable way to recover from emotional devastation.

Plot Talk: Basically, Cecily gets to college, then "Nopes" herself right out of there, goes home and spends the next year trying to figure out what she wants to do and why she "Noped" in the first place. The summary says it prettier, though.

Characters: Cecily is a really enjoyable average person. She did well in school, but didn't try especially hard as it was all just easy for her. Had a best friend and didn't try that hard at making other friends. Never made trouble. Right up until she, as previously stated, "nopes" away from college and can't explain why or what she wants to do next. She's so normal and I liked that a lot.

I actually really liked that her dad took her home when she decided it wasn't happening, that he was supportive, that when his kid did something massively out of character and then did absolutely nothing for like a month, he did make her go to therapy. I didn't like when he got really passive-aggressive about college, though.

Most of the characters were pretty solid. A lot of the book is about how people change and grow and that's neat.

PG-13 stuff: Language decently heavily, ableism, talk about sex, slutshaming, sizeism, big scary life decisions.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: There's a fair amount of grossness about weight. At one point, Cecily's sister says she couldn't be that scared of college because she's not fat. Apparently fat girls don't go to college? At another, Cecily is "relieved that somehow my sporadic attempts at exercise were keeping me from getting fat". Because in the middle of causing chaos to your family and being a bit of a mess in general, heaven forbid you get fat! Weight loss is used twice to indicate happiness/success.

It's irritating to read that kind of stuff.

Also I didn't like the slutshaming, honestly, and I couldn't figure out why it took until page 117 to even mention that not everyone goes to college. Why was it never discussed an option that Cecily might decide that she just didn't want to go to college?

Cover comments: It's super cute. Cute bunny slippers, the carpet that actually makes an appearance in the book. It fits the book. And I like that the book is pink with white letters and when you remove the dust jacket, the book is plain white, but with pink letters on the spine. Things like that please me.

Conclusion: This is exactly the kind of book I needed. Nothing to make me cry! And I think this kind of book is really important. Too many YA books, as far as I'm concerned, TV shows, movies, they all act like college is an inevitable conclusion, and it's not.

While there were things that annoyed me, most people probably wouldn't notice them and for the most part, I enjoyed it. I especially liked that Cecily went through a year of therapy. You guys know I like therapy in books. And this one featured cognitive behavioural therapy versus talk therapy, which is what I've seen much more often.

I have not really read any New Adult, but I do like the idea of this kind of book - not just college-set romance or YA with sex or however people describe NA when they don't know what they're talking about, like me - but stuff that explores what happens after high school, what if you're scared, that kind of stuff. This is pretty darn good at filling that gap. (Heh. Gap year. Gap. Get it?)

So, I think this one will get three and a half roses from me. (Points off for slutshaming and the gross attitude about weight.)

Peace and cookies,