Freshman year

Sarah Mai

Book - 2024

Chronicles the constant angst, hilarity, and self-doubt enmeshed in the experience of going away to college--all through the eyes of an eighteen-year-old burgeoning comics artist.

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor Comics New GRAPHIC NOVEL/Mai (NEW SHELF) Due Aug 6, 2024
Graphic novels
Campus fiction
Coming-of-age comics
School comics
Comics (Graphic works)
School fiction
New York ; Boston : Little, Brown and Company 2024.
Main Author
Sarah Mai (author)
First edition
Item Description
"Christy Ottaviano books"--Title page.
Physical Description
273 pages : chiefly color illustrations ; 22 cm
Ages 14-18.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

In her author-illustrator debut, Mai explores the pain and joy of starting to carve out your own place in the world, away from the life you've known in the past. Sarah is a nervous, artistic teen from Wisconsin who is about to graduate and go to college in Minnesota, and she worries about being separated from her tight-knit group of friends. As she and her roommate, Liz, and their friend, Maddy, settle into college life, they start to realize that the paths they're pursuing are not exactly what they expected. After Sarah and her boyfriend break up, she struggles to adjust and feels excluded from her friends back at home. Despite her nerves, Sarah pushes herself into new experiences and makes new friends. Inspired by Mai's own teenage journals, Sarah's difficulty finding herself is well communicated through the expressive art style, as are her new hobbies and pursuits in her attempt to define her new life. This engaging story about adjusting to the upheaval of college fits nicely alongside other coming-of-age comics, such as Malaka Gharib's It Won't Always Be like This (2022).

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

This debut graphic novel memoir begins with Mai's high school graduation. What follows is an immersive, stream-of-consciousness-style recounting of her experiences during her first year of college at the University of Minnesota, which demonstrates how frenetic and all-consuming freshman year can be. Throughout recollections of juggling coursework, relationships with her family and friends new and old, and the matter of what to do with her English degree post-graduation, Mai includes small observations about the life she perceives as being behind her; returning home for Thanksgiving break, the college student wonders, "Has this house always smelled like this?" Humorous inserts--such as an illuminated manuscript-inspired spread depicting "Ye Olde Shittee Midwesterne Wintre"--and anxiety-ridden monologues result in a balanced human portrait of a young artist wobbling her way through the mundane (dental cleanings) and the monumental (a breakup with her high school boyfriend). Back matter includes an epilogue noting the open-ended resolution and an author's note describing the story as lightly fictionalized truth ("Whittling down one year into a single narrative is complicated, especially if that period was... well, all over the place.") Ages 14--up. Agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (Feb.)

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Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up--This slice-of-life story follows Sarah, a recent high school graduate who is spending the summer before college in Minnesota, hanging out with her friends. Her boyfriend Ben tells her he loves her and wants to stay together even after she leaves for college. Unsure about a long-term relationship and about majoring in English, Sarah, who presents as white, spends the summer preoccupied, but tries to enjoy each moment. While her mom, who uses a wheelchair, helps her with moving into the dorms, she alerts Sarah to all the things that can go wrong as a college freshman, leaving Sarah feeling woefully uninformed. Luckily, her roommate, who is grounded and makes friends easily, brings Sarah along for college clubs and activities. Readers follow Sarah as she embarks on her freshman year in college: her classes are an intense blur, she tries veganism, bleaches and cuts her hair, and considers art school to cope with the stress. Eventually, Ben breaks up with her and Sarah spirals into self-doubt and depression, even with a new group of friends, including some boy interests. She eventually confides her existential worries to her mom and happily connects with her family and friends on her 19th birthday--her last teen year. A variety of story blocks make each page flow differently, and the grayscale art is realistic. College-bound high school readers will appreciate Sarah's cluelessness, feelings of being overwhelmed, and existential self-searching with this stage of life. VERDICT A solid addition where realistic graphic fiction is in demand.--Jamie Winchell

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

An artistic, thoughtful young woman from southern Wisconsin sets off for college in Minnesota. Sarah graduates from high school and spends her last summer before college with friends Finn and Emma and boyfriend Ben, who proclaims that he loves her and wants them to stay together, even after they leave for different campuses in the fall. Sarah's earnest insecurities about her plans, including whether she may transfer to an art school at some point, are evident from the get-go and will ring true for readers who've been in similar positions during this major life pivot point. The simple color palette (black and white with a blue-gray wash), with panels that smoothly shift in size and structure to suit the needs of the story, form a backdrop to playful yet realistic drawings that effectively convey people's emotions through their facial expressions. Sarah's persistent anxiety comes through especially clearly. Mai's author-illustrator debut follows Sarah throughout her entire first year of college and into the next summer. Her life is replete with new friends made (including her science-oriented roommate and a fellow artist pal), relationship struggles, spontaneous changes in personal style, visits home that show how things are both changing and staying the same, and more. This detailed, meditative tale is insightful, honest, and darkly funny, and it includes threads that are (realistically) not tidily resolved. Sarah and her family read white; there's some ethnic diversity among secondary characters. An engaging and relatable slice-of-life story. (author's note) (Graphic fiction. 14-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.