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An Off Year - Claire Zulkey



To start, congrats to another A.V. Club writer getting a book published. First, there was Nathan Rabin, the arts and entertainment Web site's head writer, and now contributing writer Claire Zulkey.

"An Off Year," Zulkey's first novel, spends a year with Cecily Powell, the type of kid who's done everything by the rules. She's worked hard in high school, gotten good grades and applied to the best colleges. But then, on the cusp of her college career, Cecily turns around. As in physically turns around "¦ and heads home.

Without a set course to follow, Cecily's unexpected gap year turns into doing a little bit of everything and a lot of nothing. But mostly, it's a year to step back and evaluate what she really wants.

I love the idea of examining a gap year "? a common event for overseas students that isn't nearly popular enough here. I desperately wanted to do a gap year "? deliberately, unlike Claire's accidental year off "? but that just wasn't a possibility for me if I still wanted my parents to foot the college bill. Claire may not spend the year traveling (like I wanted to), but her foray into an unexpected gap between high school and college is a unique way to explore the sometimes choppy transition to adulthood. 

Zulkey's writing is witty and sharp, self-deprecating and truthful. Each chapter designates one month of Claire's gap year, and we experience the highs, lows and mind-numbing mundane along with her.

"An Off Year" is a slim volume that has great crossover appeal to both kids like Claire who are set to face uncertainty of entering college and adults like me who can clearly remember that odd mix of sheer terror and bubbly excitement at the prospect of leaving home and starting a new life. Dutton."?Jenny Coon Peterson

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