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“Who knows, maybe Luke Taylor would turn out to be the love of my life, but in order to ascertain that I would have to actually get to know him first and pay real attention this time,” Phoebe. –Freshmen
by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison
Although initially nervous about making new friends during her university’s Frosh Week, Phoebe quickly befriends her roommate, Negin, and a girl named Frankie. As she settles into college, everything seems to be going smoothly until she bumps into her high school crush, Luke Taylor, at a party. Phoebe’s heart skips a beat as she realizes this is her chance to capture Luke’s heart.
Luke never noticed Phoebe in high school. Now that he’s no longer with his long-term girlfriend, Abby Baker, college has given him a whole new view. Taken in by Phoebe’s amazing smile, curly locks, and naïve optimism, Luke falls hard for Phoebe. Then, the “Wall of Shame” is exposed—a text chain created by Luke’s college soccer team where some of the members take photos of girls they slept with and rate them on a scale of 1 to 10 – and Abby unexpectedly comes back into Luke’s life. Is Luke truly the “perfect man” for Phoebe, or is he just another misogynistic jock?
With its cast of crazy characters, Ellen and Ivison create a funny story that addresses many of the problems modern-day teens face, such as cyberbullying, self-doubt, and relationships. As the story develops, both Luke’s and Phoebe’s points of view become relatable and realistic. Readers will understand Luke as he struggles with his feelings for Phoebe and Abby, and will empathize with Phoebe as she struggles to make it through her first year of college.
Along with Luke and Phoebe, Freshmen contains a cast of characters which embody every aspect of college life – there’s Arthur Watling (the pot-smoking roommate), Frankie (the ridiculously tall and funny girl that cannot seem to find a man), Josh (the cake-eating sidekick), and Will (the misogynist jock). Readers will fall in love with these realistic characters and root for them as they live through the many ups and downs of college life.
Freshmen starts off slow and takes its time developing the characters; however, once the plot picks up speed, readers will have a hard time putting it down. Ellen and Ivison push the limits of young adult fiction. During Frosh Week, the characters drink like soldiers and only put down their drinks so they can make out and have sex. They constantly attend classes hungover and live in absolute party pigsties. This book is intended for older readers, those preferably attending college, and has no real moral lesson. Nonetheless, it is a funny book that deals with problems young adults face in college.
- While in the club on the first night of Frosh Week, Will and Phoebe exchange a smile with each other, and “then we were making out with each other. He was a good kisser, but I couldn’t really get into it because I kept wondering if everyone was watching.”
- After a party, Will takes Phoebe back to his house for tea and some baked goods. The baked goods and tea “weren’t wonders of the main event; they were the reason we both latched onto so we could come here.” Phoebe and Will start kissing as Phoebe gets undressed. Will “reached down and put his hand inside my underwear, and then suddenly he just stopped and moved away.” Will has erectile dysfunction, so they do not have sex.
- While hanging out, Luke “suddenly couldn’t wait any longer. I [Luke] leaned over and we were kissing again.” Luke and Phoebe kiss.
- At another party, Phoebe “felt someone’s arms around my waist and a kiss on my cheek.” It was her friend, Frankie, and they kissed again before meeting up with more of their friends.
- After Luke invited Phoebe back to his dorm, they lay in bed together. Luke put an arm around Phoebe, pulled her in, and kissed her. Phoebe recounts, “We kissed for ages, and then, bit by bit, we were both undressed.” Phoebe wondered if she should give him a blowjob while she kissed his stomach. She “kissed him again and then did it. Just for a few seconds. Long enough to say I had done it but not long enough to mess it up in any way.” She then asked Luke if he had a condom “and then he was inside me. And it actually felt good. Really good. The surrealness resurfaced and I giggled by accident.” This scene lasts for five pages.
- After seeing Luke with his old girlfriend, Josh took Phoebe home. While they walked, Josh hugged Phoebe and then Phoebe “kissed him on the cheek, gently, near his mouth, and then moved across and kissed him again, closer this time. He cupped my face in his hands and made a sort of quiet, frustrated moan.” Josh pushes her away, not wanting to make out with one of his best friends, and sends her home in a cab.
- At the college Christmas party, Phoebe and her friends watch all of the successful couples make out. Ed and “Sophie – or Sarah – were kissing, right in the middle of the dance floor” and Phoebe “didn’t recognize him at first without his holey sweater. He looked less philosophical in a tux. But there he was, his tongue down the throat of” Stephanie Stevens.
- While talking to Phoebe about a past birthday party, Luke remembers how Chris Isaacs and Alex Paine “pushed Justin Hader on the floor and Chris had grabbed a pair of scissors, telling him they were going to give him a proper haircut. A boy’s haircut.” Phoebe says Luke “pulled Chris off him.”
- A group of girls protested the soccer team’s “Wall of Shame” and stormed the soccer field during a game. Will looked at Frankie and “then, suddenly booted the ball at her. For a split second, the whole crowd went silent . . . There was just the dull thud of the ball hitting Frankie’s chest, and she strangled sort of half-gasp-half-scream.” Luke and Trev sprint toward Will, intending to take him down, but Ed bolted out of the crowd, “threw himself at Will and just flattened him.” Frankie and Will were not hurt.
Drugs and Alcohol
- This book takes place in England, where the legal drinking age is 18. Alcohol is mentioned on almost every page. Since many of the college students are 18 or older, they drink excessively. They drink tequila, schnapps, Guinness, Jägerbombs, vodka, beer, cocktails, gin, lagers, and shots.
- Will’s house “was covered in empty beer cans.”
- The college students are constantly hungover. In one case, Luke and Phoebe had to help Stephanie Stevens find her way back to her dorm as she vomited.
- The alcohol-driven college parties can get crazy. Connor, Phoebe’s group leader, creates a booze bath. He’s “pouring out a bottle of wine and a bottle of tequila. Along with everyone else’s contributions, plus two liters of Coke, a bottle of grape juice and the powdered Nesquik…”
- In another instance, Connor puts a mattress on two skateboards to create the “beer chariot,” which they roll through the hallways as students pour beer on them.
- Luke’s housemate, Arthur, smokes weed. One time while hanging out and playing video games in Arthur’s room, Luke “had a drag and offered it to Rita.” Rita refuses, saying she does not smoke.
- Profanity is used in the extreme. All characters cuss, and it is rare to find a page without some sort of slur. Profanity includes fuck, ass, hell, oh God, jerk, dick, twat, and vag.
- Arthur says the house he was going to live in this year got “fucking condemned.”
- When Luke breaks up with Abby, she tells him, “You’re being a dick, Luke.”
- As he pees into the dorm sink, Arthur says, “just ’cause we’re not rich enough to get an ensuite bathroom, like those posh fucks up in Gildas, doesn’t mean we can’t improvise, if you know what I mean.”
- Frankie shows off her snake-proof jeans and says, “Honestly, these are like Bear Grylls-endorsed leggings. Try to bite these bitches, because you won’t get through.”
- After Luke missed their quidditch practice, Phoebe knew “he wasn’t coming. Whichever way you looked at it, it was a dick thing to do. I felt like such an idiot.”
- After Luke Taylor refuses to hook up with a girl, Will says, “But come on, Taylor. You’re a first-year, for fuck’s sake. You can’t not get laid this week.”
- Frankie thinks Luke is a “self-obsessed ass.”
- While meeting Luke and Phoebe for their group presentation, Mary looks at her phone and says, “Oh fuckbags, I’m late for band practice.”
- Luke recalled, “Chris Isaacs and Alex Paine were the biggest assholes in the whole school.”
- Frankie believed Negin “killed mad amounts of people with her resting bitch face alone.”
- Phoebe believed her garters were “too long and go right up to my ass.”
- When Luke calls Phoebe, Frankie snatches the phone right out of Phoebe’s hand and Phoebe screams, “Don’t be a twat, Frankie!”
- After Frankie explains to her mom over the phone how Phoebe got a condom “stuck up her vag,” Frankie responds with, “Oh Christ.”
- After Wicks was confronted by the soccer team about the girl he had sex with, he admits her “face was ropey, but trust me, boys, the tits were amazing.”
- After Luke takes Phoebe back to her dorm, he feels that “full-on lip-kissing always felt way too couple-y in the mornings, so I just went for a kind of half-arsed cheek kiss that morphed uncomfortably into a semi-hug.”
- After Luke lies about the “Wall of Shame,” Phoebe thinks she is a “clichéd, pathetic dick” for missing him.
by Matthew Perkey