3 out of 4 stars
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Senior Year by Jeremy C. Stanek is a YA novella that tackles heavy themes like bullying, sexuality, friendships and the transition to adulthood. Alyssa Jones starts her senior year of high school with the same trepidation she’s felt at the beginning of every past school year. The target of many bullies, Alyssa has never felt comfortable in her own skin because she’s ridiculed for her looks, her ethnicity, and just about any other reason her bullies come up with. Luckily, she’s kept her most personal secret from them; a secret that will surely increase their nastiness towards her if discovered. Thankfully, a new student, Mark, befriends Alyssa at the onset of the school year, and the two form a friendship based on common interests that makes each day bearable. Alyssa feels comfortable confiding in Mark, but when her secret is exposed, both of their lives change forever.
The narrative of Senior Year is fast paced, and the author crams quite a bit of character development into this relatively short read (the novella is a little over one-hundred pages). This is exemplified by Alyssa's fully developed persona; it is easy to picture her home life as well as understand her feelings and commiserate with her frustrations. The use of the third person limited perspective successfully drew focus away from other characters, enabling the reader to quickly form an intimate bond with Alyssa.
That being said, there were some secondary character traits and important plot points that felt overdrawn and too obvious. Unfortunately, this led to a somewhat anticlimactic reveal at the end. However, given the target audience, this book may still pack some unexpected punch with less experienced readers. This book would be most enjoyed by early high school students; the writing style and somewhat obvious content may be too pedestrian for older YA readers.
Although the story was, for the most part, captivating, the writing proved to be a distraction. This book is in dire need of a thorough round of editing. Grammatical errors plague the narrative starting on the very first page when what should be ‘area’ is written as ‘are.’ The editorial issues littered throughout the pages were a significant enough distraction to influence the final rating.
For the most part, the story of Alyssa Jones’ senior year carried me along, and I really enjoyed getting to know the character of Alyssa. Due to the fact that this book is most appropriate for younger YA readers, the somewhat obvious outcomes did not impact the final rating. However, the poor editing did lead to the subtraction of one star, leaving Senior Year with a final rating of 3 out of 4 stars.
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