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The first semester of your freshman year in college may feel awkward and frightening, yet liberating with that chance to start over. In the hilarious new novel, FRESHMEN, Luke Taylor and Phoebe Bennet enter York Met University ready for change. It does not take long for Luke to free himself from his long-term girlfriend who is now hundreds of miles away. Meanwhile, away from their former high school social hierarchy, Phoebe wants a cooler crowd. Could she now be cool enough for Luke, her teenage crush? When the two freshmen reunite on campus, the fun-loving Phoebe captures the heart of the handsome Luke. Authors Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison give teen readers a relatable story of finding yourself while away from home.

Dorm rooms become homes to Luke and Phoebe at a college in the English countryside where the story takes place. Phoebe wakes up one morning and explains, “It felt weird. I wasn’t on vacation. I actually lived in this strange little room, now hundreds of miles away from home.” Readers will get a glimpse of college housing in England where students share suites with other “mates,” and call their “mums” and are constantly serving one another cups of tea. Of course, tea is not the only beverage of choice: alcohol flows at parties and in bars. Hangovers, hook-ups and heartbreak pervade the collegiate setting.

"Teens heading off to college this fall should add FRESHMEN to their summer reading list....Authors Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison have created a humorous guidebook for your first semester."

Breaking up with Abbey Baker --- just 10 hours into college --- gives Luke the opportunity to meet other people. Yet the ambivalent freshman admits, “I hadn’t meant to say it. It just sort of…came out.” After the phone goes dead, he is regretful and wonders “Is that it? Are we actually broken up? Can three years of your life really come to an end, just like that, in a dark computer room in the middle of the night? I covered my face but the tears wriggled out between my fingers.” Luke is selfish but sensitive, irresistibly attractive but increasingly insecure. Whether you end up liking Luke or hating him, he is in a situation most of us can understand. As the book alternates between Luke’s point-of-view and Phoebe’s, the characters become more and more genuine.

Phoebe genuinely fancies Luke Taylor. She has daydreamed about the hot soccer player since sixth grade and is simply “electrified” by his presence on the first night of freshmen orientation. Though Luke never noticed Phoebe in high school, he is quite taken by her amazing smile and curly locks when they meet during Frosh Week. The beautiful Phoebe is sweet but a bit superficial, optimistic but naïve. She admits, “it is a bit messed up that I’ve been daydreaming about Luke Taylor for all these years but never actually considered what he is really like.” Now that Phoebe has finally captured Luke’s attention, she must decide if he is truly the “perfect man” for her. Phoebe gives readers a witty and wise perspective on confronting your first crush.

As Phoebe and Luke share their perspectives on freshman “firsts,” they introduce their new colorful friends. Arthur Watling, the eccentric sophomore who lives next door to Luke, shows Luke the ropes at York Met (as the second-year student drinks, smokes weed and eats cheese). Frankie, “a really, really tall girl with a really, really posh voice,” and Negin, a hall mate with a perfect black bob, offer Phoebe support with their humor and advice. Will, the London preppy --- who occasionally hooks up with Phoebe --- welcomes Luke onto the soccer team. These wacky college students remind me of an English cast of “Friends.”

Predictably, conflict arises among friends. Just when Luke begins to like Phoebe in a “solid, this-might-actually-happen concrete” way, Phoebe discovers the Wall of Shame, a text chain created by Luke’s soccer team. Some members of the team, including Will, take photos of girls they sleep with and rate them out of 10. Can Phoebe ever trust Will or Luke? Should she join other girls and try to take down their operation? Posting compromising photos is a serious topic for teens today.

Teens heading off to college this fall should add FRESHMEN to their summer reading list. As an incoming college freshman myself, I found this refreshing read very relevant. Authors Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison have created a humorous guidebook for your first semester.

Reviewed by Juliette G., Teen Board Member on July 11, 2018

by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison