Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Review: An Off Year by Claire Zulkey

Arriving at her dorm for her freshmen year of college, Cecily decides she’s just not ready, turns around, and goes home. What follows is a year off, bumming around at home and wondering if she’s a freak because she didn’t do what was expected of her like everyone else did.

I was attracted to this novel because I did a gap year between high school and college, going on a year exchange program to Ecuador. Gap years are a great way to get to know yourself better and give yourself a break between the pressures of high school and the pressures of college. You can travel, volunteer, get a job to save up money for college, or take up any number of interesting activities.

Cecily did nothing. NOTHING. That’s why I’m surprised I was not bored out of my skull reading about her year off. You see, even though Cecily lacks drive, she can banter with the best of them and the writing sparkles with subtle, sly humor. She banters with her father (resigned to Cecily’s inertia), her siblings (envious that she can get away with doing nothing as the baby of the family), her shrink, her career councilor, her best friend (increasing distant and slutty as her year at college progresses) and best of all with sort of crush but not really Mike (who should’ve had more scenes).

The novel touches a lot on the expectations and motivations associated with the college years, and Mike’s story added another unconventional choice to the mix. Here’s a charming, well-liked young man who impresses everyone by being accepted to Harvard and then “throws it all away” by transferring to the University of Kansas mid-year to be with his girlfriend. Even though Mike mistakenly calls KU by the initials UK, I was still pleased to see KU’s battle cry “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” in a YA novel. Never thought I’d see the day.

AN OFF YEAR comes out September 3rd in hardcover. Visit the author’s website. Even though I couldn't find anything about this upcoming release, the writing on the site is very funny and gives you a good idea of the kind of humor you get in the novel.

20 comments:

a flight of minds said...

Actually, it sounds like an interesting book. Is there much of a plot though if Cecily does nothing but banter with others? I like the idea of the gap year though. I'm wondering if I should do that...

- Alex

Lenore said...

Alex - It is an interesting book, but nope, not much of a plot. Obviously, the big question is, does Cecily start college when the next fall rolls around? You'll have to read it to find out ;)

Thao said...

You make me feel curious about this book. Thank God I'm lucky enough to have a copy or else I'll die of curiosity. I also love the cover a lot.

Jazz said...

Wow, so much opportunity for plot that ends up being a lot of banter. I wonder how some books get published.

I took three years between high school and college to work, finally figured out what I wanted to do, went to college with my boyfriend, broke up with boyfriend who turned out to be a loser, and changed my major after my freshman year because what I wanted to do turned out to not really be what I wanted to do.

bermudaonion said...

First of all, I love the cover. The book must be well written if you found it so engaging yet the main character does nothing.

Liviania said...

I might like it for a completely opposite world view. I'm so oddly motivated about academics.

Alea said...

Hehe. I took my gap year after I graduated college and it lasted til I got handed a job and then another. Big time motivation over here lol! I'm excited to read it too!

H said...

If I don't have structured things to do I can end up doing nothing at all as well. That's why I didn't take a gap year though I kind of wish I had now. I love the cover :)

writemeg said...

I'm definitely intrigued by this one! Everyone I know who suggested taking "a year off" between college and high school was looked at like a crazy person in my hometown. I pushed right from one to the other and don't regret it, but I can see the appeal of taking some time off to do other things. I've had the money, I would have loved to travel! :)

Thanks for the great review -- going to add this one to my wishlist! Sometimes seemingly plotless books surprise me... and turn out to be my favorites :)

celi.a said...

The protagonist has a great name, I'll give her that...

Not sure I'd be able to read about 'nothing.' You make it sound good, though, so I'll have to check the back cover, at least.

Thanks for the review!

TexasRed said...

Sounds like lots of fun banter. I'll keep my eyes open for it. Plus, my brother went to KU, so I'd appreciate the tie-ins.

Starry*Night said...

a mention of KU (rock chalk jayhawk!)? i think i might have to read this novel.

Christy

~Mary said...

I had a few OFF years....
I think I'd like this novel! I'd never know about it if you didn't review it! THANKS!

Staci said...

This sounds great. I think the idea of a gap year is wonderful. My husband told our son that he would finance a year of traveling after high school if he wanted to...wow, wish he would've been my dad!!!

Amee said...

Sounds interesting!

My dad occasionally chants the "rock chalk jayhawk" thing even though he only went there about a year, I think. :P

Rhiannon Hart said...

THAT is a damned cute cover. Not one I'd go out of my way to get but if it appears at the library I'll pick it up. I'm always interested in how people make nothing seem interesting!

Beth Kephart said...

I loved your review and I really loved the comments here. You get us thinking.

Beth F said...

NIce review -- I hadn't heard of this book before. I took a year off between college and grad school, but I worked and it wasn't all that much fun!

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

This sounds like a great read! I did something similar when it was time for university (I took more than a year in fact, and I did a mix of "nothing" and then work, before finally going back to university). I feel I could relate to Cecily, at least a little. :)

Belle said...

I like the sound of this, particularly the fact that it was an interesting read even though Cecily didn't do anything with her gap year!