Published by Chicken House Books.
Review by Hannah Whitehead.
A messy and honest depiction of the first term of university, Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison’s Freshers tells the tale of what happens when new friends, old crushes and copious amounts of alcohol collide. Phoebe and Luke give two opposing perspectives on their very different experiences adjusting to uni life away from their families, childhood friends and all sense of familiarity. Freshers week for these two characters, as expected, brings with it blurry nights, killer hangovers and drunken mistakes; but it also sparks a romance, fulfilling long-time secret admirer Phoebe’s dream to finally get a chance with the infamous Luke Taylor. Fortunately, although the main theme running through this book is definitely of the ‘boy meets girl’ variety, the authors also focus greatly on friendship, which is always a bonus. Any novel that passes the Bechdel Test makes my inner feminist very happy and – without ruining it – the ending is extremely satisfying and helps to salvage a make-or-break moment.
This, for me, was one of those books where even upon finishing it I couldn’t quite decide what I thought of it. It definitely features very likeable, relatable characters and its frequent pop-culture references – whether they be music-, meme- or media-orientated – made the target audience very clear. Also, as I mentioned, I liked the focus on friendships and the fact that (shock-horror) boys and girls could be friends without any romantic implications! However, Freshers touched upon some very serious and relevant issues without ever delving very deeply into them. For example, the so-called ‘lad-culture’ prevalent amongst the football team regarding their treatment of women and the difficulties Luke has of isolation and not fitting in. Of course, Ellen and Ivison never claim this to be any sort of ‘self-help guide to university’ but it could be argued they slightly missed an opportunity. All this being said, it is very honest and perfectly encapsulates the excruciatingly awkward encounters that can occur at the initial stages of a romance and the aftermath of mistake-ridden nights out. Although I can’t say I loved Freshers, anything I read that doesn’t romanticise dating, glorify degrading women or vilify strong female characters is a win in my book!