Second Look: PSYCH MAJOR SYNDROME by Alicia Thompson

The Patient: Leigh Nolan.

Symptom(s): Chronic overthinking.


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The Story: Leigh Nolan is a freshman psych major at a small college in Southern California, and she has a lot to juggle. 1) She’s struggling to be a peer mentor to a hard-ass teenager who seems to know much more about life than Leigh does; 2) A catty, overly competitive fellow psych-major classmate is gunning to be the top dog in the Psych department; 3) She can’t figure out why she and Andrew, her boyfriend of over a year, haven’t had sex yet; 4) She has no idea why she’s having romantic dreams about Andrew’s roommate, Nathan.

The Low Down: Leigh is a complex character. But not in the way that you would think. I don’t mean that the character of Leigh Nolan is complex. (Have I thoroughly confused you? I thought so.) What I mean is that she’s hard to break down. Some people might perceive her as whiny and naïve, with some neuroses that can be hard to take (overthinking being one of them). But personally, I thought she was adorable. Yes, she is naïve and kind of clueless about the opposite sex. But aren’t most teenagers? (I know I was, and… well… still am) Even though it’s not billed as such, Leigh’s story is actually one of self-discovery, and the bizarre road she takes to get there. She’s a character who thinks she’s got it all figured out, but slowly realizes she doesn’t know very much at all.

Our cast of characters includes Ami: Leigh’s super cool and carefree artist roommate and newly found BFF; Andrew: Leigh’s long-term, non-commital, d-bag boyfriend; Nathan: Andrew’s roommate, who Leigh thinks is self-righteous and uptight, and for some reason seems to hate her… but he looks great without a shirt. The relationships depicted are about as real as you can get. The way she interacts with all the people in her life are legit, and I appreciate that in a novel. I hate when authors write how they *think* teenagers talk and not how they actually interact with other individuals their age. But Thompson got this one spot on (and she ought to know… she wrote this novel while in college earning a psych degree of her own!) She may have taken a few liberties with a few of the gushier, romantic parts, but she makes it work within the story.

Despite some of the deeper notions it delves into, Psych Major Syndrome is a actually a light-hearted, fun romp of a novel. Thompson’s wit and one-liners coming from Leigh literally left me laughing out loud (see the Quote Props post from 10/24/12). I wanted to write down some of my favorite lines, but I realized early on that I’d probably end up copying down most of the novel. I love Thompson’s writing style, and I hope we see more YA novels from her in the future.

Bottom Line: Psych Major Syndrome all comes down to Leigh learning to appreciate what she wants and needs in her life, not what she thinks she wants or needs. If you want a quick read, and/or something good natured, uplifting, and a little romantic, this is a prime choice.



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