I raised the key and hesitated. Something wasn't right. I turned around, "You know, actually, I think I'm just going to go back home with you," I told my dad, who was still trying to decipher the campus map.
So begins An Off Year by Claire Zulkey (Dutton Books, 2009). Cecily Powell is about to walk into her freshman dorm room and just like that she decides to take a year off instead of going to college. But Cecily doesn't understand or even know why she wants to take a year off. She's not interested in traveling. She's not interested in getting a job. She's not interested in any of the other things teens usually do when taking a gap year.
I started reading An Off Year and before reaching the 50-page mark I stopped reading for a couple of weeks because nothing much was happening. Cecily is lost. But instead of doing some soul searching or trying to be productive, she . . . watches a lot of daytime television. I made myself pick up An Off Year again and continue reading, and it was worth the effort.
Not that a lot happens after the first 50 pages. Cecily starts seeing a shrink and a professional college counselor. She even gets a part-time job and audits a class at a university. (Her father forces her to do these things.) But mostly Cecily stays at home and keeps to herself. Still, I liked this young adult novel. It's about trying to figure out who you are and what you want and what makes you happy. It's about trying to figure out if college is for you and then which college is for you. It's a lot about college per se, too. What I got out of An Off Year is that it's okay if you can't figure out all of those things right away. It's okay to be confused and a little insecure and scared at first. What's important is that you don't let those things hold you back for very long.
An Off Year is worth reading because if you are a teen and you are confused about college and/or about what you want in life in general, it can really help to read about another teen going through the same thing.
[My copy of An Off Year is an ARC I won from a contest at Presenting Lenore. Thank you so much, Lenore!]