Book reviews

Cum Laude

I had high hopes when I started reading Cum Laude by Cecily von Ziegesar, who is the writer of Gossip Girls. I even googled ‘Cum Laude’ to find out what the novel’s title means, and learned the expression is Latin for ‘with honour’. Specifically, in a college or university context, graduating with high praise.

I doubt any of the characters in this novel managed to do anything with honour. Behaving dishonourably wouldn’t have been so bad, if they hadn’t been so boring. The characters are mainly college students, and include an emotionally neglected rich girl, her college drop out brother who suffers from mental illness, her rich, handsome and stupid boyfriend who discovers drugs, her room mate who has loads of attitude and a poor townie boy who the poor little rich girl really fancies. To top it off, there is a lesbian teacher. The only stereotype missing is a nerd.

The students in this novel (I struggle to call them young adults, as they are in no way self reliant) are supposed to be getting an education at Dexter College, but are petted and pampered, fed and housed, while they drink and use drugs and have sex at their parent’s expense. The teachers were glorified babysitters.

There characters weren’t even redeemed by any growth. Not on of them seemed to learn anything (in school or out) that provided a point for the novel. The character building moments were so few and far between that I’m still not sure what the point of the book was. If Cum Laude is a typical example of college life (or in Australia, university) I don’t think I missed out on anything by leaving school at 16 to get a job.

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