Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Book Review: Cum Laude by Cecily Von Ziegesar.

Product details:
Publisher: Hyperion.
Hardcover, 272 pages.
Release date: June 1st 2010.
Rating: 3 out of 5.

Book summary from Goodreads:

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.

Cum laude is the first book I’ve read by Cecily Von Ziegesar and it’s a fun read, although in terms of coming of age tales it’s pretty formulaic and nothing you haven’t read before.  That said, I found it pretty compulsive reading, and it made me want to read more from Von Ziegesar.  This is a wild ride through college life with a very interesting cast of characters, to say the least.

All your coming of age stalwarts are present and correct in this book.  There’s Shipley, who is Serena Van Der Woodsen in her ability to make men fall at her feet, although she’s more wholesome than Serena ever was, and you never see her in a knockout bodycon number.  Her roommate Eliza is her necessary coming of age contrast character - dark and edgy, complete with a permanent sneer. Underneath her tough exterior though, she just wants to be loved.  Then there’s the boys. For me, the boys were a bit of a letdown here.  Tom the jock, and Nick, the hippy stoner are really nothing to write home about.  Two of my favourite characters were Adam and his sister, Tragedy. Yes, you heard right, her name is Tragedy. She was named after the Bee Gee’s song of the same name.  That's just one example of the great humour in the book. Tragedy deserves her own spin-off series, for sure.  Adam isn't as fun a character as his sister, but he is deep and sensitive, the polar opposite of Tom, and necessary for our fun love triangle. I’m a big fan of these love triangles, you know.

I should point out that this novel was written for an adult audience, but honestly, while it does contain themes of sex and drugs, nothing is overly graphic, and I think this one will appeal to older teens who want to find out all about just how much fun college can be! Other than the keg parties, and experimentation with sex and drugs, not a whole lot goes on in this book.  It’s fun, nonetheless, and the characters embark on the necessary journeys of self-discovery throughout the book.  There is a subplot involving Shipley’s missing brother “Pink Patrick”, but it’s no mystery to us, and this wasn’t my favourite part of the book, although if the series continues, things could get interesting between him and Tragedy.

When I read the novel, I believed it to be a standalone, and it’s works just fine as that, but having read a couple of interviews with Von Ziegesar, I understand she’s planning to make a three book series out of this, which possible explains why the book is set in the nineties.  Maybe we’ll get to follow these guys through their college years.  I’ll certainly be along for the ride!

I needed to point this out, just because I'm so obsessed with cover art.  These books practically have the same cover! Is this odd? I've never come across two books with the same cover before. I was browsing in Waterstones last week and when I saw the If I Stay cover, I thought the girl looked familiar. Well,  from what I can see they've only gone and used the same girl and even the same picture on the Cum Laude cover, just from a different angle. The final cover for Cum Laude was very late releasing, so maybe they couldn't decide on what to use. Sorry for the crap picture of that one, by the way.  Clearly, I am not a photographer. :)


  1. Ah I do find von Ziegesar a bit hit and miss sometimes so I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I haven't read her for a while so I think I'll check it out. Interesting about the cover art too, I am noticing it more and more lately!x

  2. I was a big fan of this author's Gossip Girl books but then I kind out outgrew them in a sense. This one does sound interesting though and I love the cover as well. I knew the picture of the girl looked familiar haha. Similar covers happen a lot in the publishing world mostly because a lot of the images for book covers are taken from stock photo websites such as Gettyimages or Veer etc.

  3. Hmm..not bad, Sounds decent
    Very weird the whole cover thing...STRANGE!
    never seen that before.

    I'm a von Ziegesar virgin, so may have to check her out!

  4. I love the sound of this. I am a huge fan of the Private series and I know it isn't the same, but drama is fun! :) Great review.

    About that cover, that's so weird.

  5. I haven't read any of the Private series, but I was thinking it sounded like fun. I must check it out sometime. There are lots of books in that series though, I think? I'll never catch up at this rate!


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