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500 Words or Less
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500 Words or Less
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A high school senior attempts to salvage her reputation among her Ivy League-obsessed classmates by writing their college admissions essays and in the process learns big truths about herself in this...
A high school senior attempts to salvage her reputation among her Ivy League-obsessed classmates by writing their college admissions essays and in the process learns big truths about herself in this...
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Description-

  • A high school senior attempts to salvage her reputation among her Ivy League-obsessed classmates by writing their college admissions essays and in the process learns big truths about herself in this mesmerizing debut novel-in-verse, perfect for fans of Gayle Forman and Sonya Sones.
    Nic Chen refuses to spend her senior year branded as the girl who cheated on her charismatic and lovable boyfriend. To redefine her reputation among her Ivy League-obsessed classmates, Nic begins writing their college admissions essays.
    But the more essays Nic writes for other people, the less sure she becomes of herself, the kind of person she is, and whether her moral compass even points north anymore.
    Provocative, brilliant, and achingly honest, 500 Words or Less explores the heartbreak and hope that marks the search for your truest self.

About the Author-

  • Juleah del Rosario wants you to know that she grew up outside of Seattle on the eastside. She currently lives in a book- and mountain-filled existence as a librarian in Colorado. She is Chamorro and Filipina. Most importantly, she wants you to know that you are loved and you are whole.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 25, 2018
    In this moving novel in verse, Nic Chen agrees to write her classmates’ college essays for a price and becomes not only her peers’ accidental biographer but also a vessel for many of their secrets. Through Nic’s poetic narration and essays, debut author del Rosario unearths the profound range of emotions buried underneath the surface in a class of high school students—grief about a parent who left, hope of becoming someone who is “more than a football player,” pain of walking down the school hallways while being the object of cruel gossip. Nic carries her own percolating well of loss, too: of her mother, who left; of her ex, Ben, who transferred after she cheated; and of her classmates’ respect following the incident (“whore” is written in lipstick across her locker in one scene). Del Rosario’s poems are accessible, and Nic proves herself a keen observer of the world around her, an adept interrogator of her own self, and a philosopher who considers how and why life happens the way it does. Ages 14–up. Agent: Brent Taylor, Triada U.S.

  • School Library Journal

    July 1, 2018

    Gr 9 Up-Seventeen-year-old Nic Chen is Chinese and white, and struggling with issues of race, class, and gender double standards in the affluent community of Meydenbauer. This is a town where Ivy League acceptance letters are a minimal expectation, and the microaggressions experienced by people of color are eagerly swept under the rug to comfort the sensibilities of white elites. After cheating on her boyfriend, Nic is a social outcast with only her best friend, Kitty, taking her side. Nic's talent for writing serves as a lifeline to redeem her. The catch: she must write winning college admissions letters for her classmates. The price: $300 and fragments of her moral compass. Nic is able to take the lived experiences of her classmates and write essays in 500 words or less that speak to something deeper in the human spirit. As she churns out essays, she has to search her own soul as well as those of her friends. It's not the money she craves, but a very specific void that she's trying to fill. This compelling novel in verse encourages deep thought and conversation. VERDICT Fans of Perfect by Ellen Hopkins will devour this timely and addictive read.-Christina Vortia, Hype Lit, Land O'Lakes, FL

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2018
    A high school senior tries to move past her betrayal of her boyfriend and the disappearance of her mother.Branded a whore after an alcohol-fueled hookup with her boyfriend's best friend and desperate to ."..for a moment / be someone / other than / that girl," Nic Chen agrees to write the college essays of classmates at her competitive high school. She understands the power of the spare, stripped-down vignette, and in learning and writing the stories of the valedictorian, the artist, the quarterback, and the mean girl, Nic starts to find her own story too. There's a lot going on here, and the boyfriend comes and goes in such fleeting moments that it's hard to empathize with Nic's stated sense of loss. Debut author del Rosario only begins to unpack the complexity of Nic's relationships with her runaway white mother and her emotionally distant Chinese father and her identity as their biracial daughter in a largely wealthy, largely white Seattle-area community. Add in an extensive cast of classmates and a few loyal friends whose stories aren't told, and the impact of the whole is perhaps less than the sum of its parts. Still, the author, like Nic, knows the weight of "emotionally raw" experiences, and, in poignant verse, the moments of anguish, loneliness, and hope ring true.As one of the characters describes Nic: beautiful but not perfect. (Novel in verse. 14-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • AudioFile Magazine Narrator Annie Q portrays Nic Chen, the protagonist of Rosario's novel in verse. The plot revolves around high school seniors who are obsessed with obtaining admission to their Ivy League college of choice--so obsessed that they pay Nic to write their admissions essays. Annie Q captures Nic with an increasingly angst-tinged realism. Known as the girl who cheated on her boyfriend, Nic feels increasingly guilty with each additional paper she writes and continues to regret the mistake that cost her the boy she loved. Annie Q turns this slightly maudlin plot into something meaningful through the conviction of her delivery, particularly her first-person portrayal of Nic. She also excels at revealing the desperation that causes Nic's classmates to resort to hiring her to do their work. E.J.F. � AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine
  • Booklist

    July 1, 2018
    Grades 9-12 For biracial high-schooler Nic Chen, senior year is supposed to be about applying to Princeton, imagining the future beyond her privileged high-school experience in a wealthy enclave, and determining the fate of her romantic relationship with longtime friend (and now boyfriend) Ben. But after cheating on Ben with his best friend Jordan, Nic is branded a whore?while Jordan's reputation is unscathed, a double standard if there ever was one. A top student and skilled writer, Nic begins writing college essays for her peers, exploring the experiences that have come to most define them. In the process, she explores the low points that have shaped her life; not just what happened with Ben and Jordan but also being recently abandoned by her mother and the refiguring of her family that's followed. Written in highly readable prose poems, as well as the essays themselves, del Rosario's debut is one of the rare YA contemporaries that isn't centered on a romance. Instead, Nic reckons with her own multifaceted identity. Who is she, truly, beyond a daughter, a student, an (ex-)girlfriend? Thoughtfully introspective.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

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