Friday, June 11, 2010

Cum Laude by Cecily von Ziegesar

(Side note: When I tried to do an image search under "Cum Laude," the search engine warns for adult content, which makes me want to say, "Really?" I think that particular expression is on the banned list, so instead I will say, "Is that affirmative?!?")

College is supposed to be a time of self-discovery. At Dexter College, the school's (original) motto is inveni te ipsum, "Find yourself." We are introduced to a motley crew of five college students as they encounter each other as roommates and on the orientation camping trip. Shipley and Eliza, Tom and Nick are roommates, they end up being grouped together for the trip, they steal a van and wind up at Adam's doorstep.

Shipley is attending Dexter just to upset her parents. Her brother Patrick attended Dexter and subsequently dropped out and dropped off the face of the earth. Shipley is pretty and blonde. Pretty much anyone male is in love with her. She took up smoking and chewing gum just because her parents don't smoke or chew gum. I think she's kind of an idiot and her name is dumb.

Eliza is the counter-culture feminist. She dresses mostly in black and hates Shipley. Poor Eliza throws herself at a guy and can't snag him because he is "saving himself for Shipley." Eliza actually becomes friends with Shipley and I thought their friendship was kind of adorable.

Tom is buff and rich and snobby. Of course, he immediately hooks up with Shipley. Later, he recruits the college's Grateful Dead cover band to take him on a trip into the world of drugs. We're talking a week-long ecstasy bender followed by a night of ether huffing, all so he could paint a deconstructed picture of naked Shipley with a Macy's bag on her head.

Nick is a stoner. He loves Shipley even though she doesn't see him at all. As mentioned, he spurns Eliza because he is holding out for the blonde boy magnet. One wants to quote Heath Ledger (God rest him) in 10 Things I Hate About You: "What is it with this chick? She have beer-flavored nipples?" Nick has this whole zen thing and idolized a nature freak he went to boarding school with, and he builds a yurt (It's a tent-type thing) on the school grounds, partially because of the nature thing and partially so he doesn't have to see Tom and Shipley hooking up.

Finally, Adam got a full scholarship to Dexter but wasn't able to get a dorm. He doesn't participate in the college experience as much as the rest of the group. Adam falls in love with...hmmm, can we guess? Anyways, he thinks that his love is the twuest wuv of all and that she will eventually leave Tom and get with him. Shipley actually always thinks about Adam and getting with Adam and scenarios where Adam and Tom fight over her, and that kind of makes me hate Shipley. If you like Adam so damn much, then break up with Tom and get with Adam! You can't have both, no matter how blonde and pretty you may be.

There are two non-student characters that come into play. First is Adam's adopted sister, Tragedy. Tragedy is apparently the ethnic Jenny Humphrey because every time she is mentioned, so is her tall and well-developed body. I immediately worried that the story would end with Adam and Tragedy getting together, but thankfully that never happened. Tragedy cheers Adam on and livens him up a bit. Her voice even plays in his head trying to get him to loosen up.

Remember Shipley's brother, Patrick? He actually never left Dexter. Patrick is homeless and scrounges for food in dumpsters. When he spots Shipley's Mercedes, which had once been his, Patrick starts to take it out for joy rides. It's easy because their family has a habit of leaving car keys on the right front tire (Who does that?!?). Patrick ends up making friends with Tragedy, who tries to help him whenever she can.

Honestly, when I was reading the big dramatic moment near the ending, I was nearly in tears of sad times. Thinking about it, though, it's actually really funny. It involves a raccoon coat and a shotgun. I thought this book would be Gossip Girl in college. I was getting a little nervous because of all the scandal, sex, and other juicy tidbits. Gossip Girl makes these kids look like a convent. There are minor scandals and several instances of sex, but it's all a bit lackluster. I like more dirt.

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