BY CECILY VON ZIEGESAR
They’re here for a higher education . . . and you won’t believe how far they’ll go.
Dexter College is a small liberal arts college in the quiet town of Home, Maine. But it won’t stay quiet for long with this group of freshmen. There’s Shipley—blonde and beautiful, the object of envy and more than a little lust. Determined to assert herself and to shed her good-girl image, she buys cigarettes and condoms, because that’s what every self-respecting college girl does. Her edgy roommate, Eliza, came to Dexter to get noticed, and she has the attitude and the mouth to prove it. Then there’s Tom. Handsome, privileged, used to getting his own way, he’s a jock-turned-artist who thinks his paintings will change the world. Sensitive Nick, Tom’s wake-and-bake pot-smoking roommate, wants to follow in the footsteps of his boarding-school hero. And then there are brother and sister Adam and Tragedy Gatz. The freckle-faced farm boy lives at home with his parents and his little sister, who does all she can to stop him from being a wuss.
As Shipley, Eliza, Tom, Nick, and Adam find out, that first year of college is more than credits and cramming. Between the lust and the love, the secrecy and the scandal, they’ll all receive an unexpected education. It’s a time of shifting alliances, unrequited crushes, and coming of age. Find Yourself is Dexter’s motto. And they are determined to do just that.ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cecily von Ziegesar is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Gossip Girl novels, upon which the hit television show is based. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.
Cecily von Ziegesar has graduated from her young adult/teen books like her highly successful GOSSIP GIRL series, to CUM LAUDE. Meaning with honors, CUM LAUDE is a fitting title for her first adult novel and truly is memorable for many reasons but over all, a fun read. Set in Maine, in the 90’s at Dexter College, a well-to-do liberal arts college, it is a tale of coming of age during the first year of college for a colorful and basically similar group of young people.
CUM LAUDE begins with Shipley Gilbert, who has the simple goal of NOT being like her reckless older brother but rather to do well in college and make a lot of good friends. Shipley is from a wealthy family but doesn’t act it, and surely has no idea how unbelievably attractive she is. She is actually rather shy and so her other goal is to shed that timid personality. Upon arrival, she bonds quickly with her roommate, Eliza, and Tom and Nick who are neighbors in the dorm. Things start off wildly as the four go on an orientation adventure and end up at the home of Adam and Tragedy Gatz . Adam is also a freshman and Tragedy, the younger sister, who they wind up getting drunk with AFTER they had “stolen” one of the professor’s cars! Right from the start, Shipley is getting right on track with her initial goal. All of them are eventually found out and on probation of sorts for a week and not allowed to even leave the campus.
The freshman year for these young people is really what the rest of the book is about. Soon, Shipley discovers how very lovely she is and attracts the boys like a magnet. Meanwhile her roommate poses nude for an art class as Eliza thinks it will help to make her a much more fascinating person. Adam has a crush on Shipley and Nick is really into making the most of his first year of college although not always in an academic way.
Despite the time period of the story, it is still a decent attempt at portraying what the first year of college is like to many people, no matter if it is the 90s, the 60s, or modern day. Involvement in politics and social issues as well as a growing sexual consciousness are all part of that freshman year. This is not to say that von Ziegesar has spelled out what college is like throughout America for all young people today. I think the characters are fine in the setting she has written for them, but what of the rest of society? Is this what middle class students go through? Is it how they live out that first year? What of various ethnic groups that are not represented at all? The 90s can’t be presented as the dark ages just because there weren’t as many cell phones and iPads. That said, CUM LAUDE is an easy to follow, nicely written summer read. I enjoyed it for what it was but can’t say it was on my “best books of summer” list. I think a younger audience might connect better with it and perhaps von Ziegesar needs to work on spanning the gap a little more between her Gossip Girl fans and adult readers.
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