Friday, March 17, 2017

Review: Undeclared by Julianna Keyes

Published February 27, 2017 by Julianna Keyes

Kellan McVey is Burnham College’s most prolific athlete, partier, and ladies’ man—and that’s just how he likes it. Returning to reign for his third year, he wants nothing to change. Then Andrea Walsh shows up. 

It wasn’t too long ago that Andi and Kellan were lifelong friends, mortal enemies, and, for one hot summer, more. Then Kellan left and Andi stayed behind. 

Kellan thought he’d moved past that last summer’s heartbreak, but with Andi sitting next to him in class, befriending his friends, and battling for the same once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity, he’s starting to remember why he hated her…and why he loved her. 

Kellan has a long list of reasons that falling for Andi again is a terrible idea, though every new moment together challenges that theory. But Andi’s all too familiar with Kellan’s love ’em and leave ’em approach—and she’s found someone else to get serious about. 

Burnham’s campus king has never had to fight for a girl, but if he wants Andi to give him another chance, he’ll have to do the one thing he’s never had the nerve to do: admit it. 

Julianna Keyes writes characters who are not always likable, but always complex. In Undecided, one of my favorite books of 2016, we were introduced to the ancillary character Kellan McVey—who, as much as he induced the slapping of palms across foreheads, was also charmingly endearing: at once a big-hearted devoted friend, yet also clueless and self-absorbed. I finished reading Undecided wanting more from the Burnham College universe, and curious how Keyes would tell Kellan's story. What would Kellan's character arc look like, given that he often seemed to have the depth of a espresso cup?

After spending his first two years at Burnham College "living life" until he was diagnosed with an STD and needing the help of a list recorded in a bathroom stall in the student union to identify which of his 63 sexual partners he had contracted the infection from (because in his memory, many of his partners were nameless and even faceless), he decides to become "Kellan 2.0. All the fun, none of the gonorrhea" when he runs into his childhood best friend and rival, Andi, on campus. Undeclared is a second chance romance between these two, but the focus of the novel is on Kellan acknowledging his feelings for Andi as he wrestles with the age-old college quandary of figuring out who he is and who he wants to be in relation to who he thinks he should be, and less on the actual rapport between the couple.

On a side note, the secondary characters are great, particularly the storyline involving Kellan's good friend, Choo. While at first I thought it was a rare miss by Julianna Keyes at naming a character, in the end, her handling of his name and character was spot on—I'm sure her experience living in China informed this hilarious sub-narrative. Keyes is an astute observer of life, which is seen in this introspective yet funny portrayal of college life.

Rating: 4 Stars

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