Shy and awkward Natalie Bloom arrives at UConn, her dream school, as a junior after attending community college for two years. The youngest of seven children, Natalie is the first in her family to seek a higher education. Majoring in Russian history, Natalie spends literally all of her time in class or in the library studying, and just as studiously avoiding social contact with her fellow students.
One day she meets tall, handsome Patrick in the library (where else??) and soon she’s on her way to her first romance. If you can call it that. Patrick is interested in Natalie at first, but soon it becomes obvious that he is using her for sex and is really quite contemptuous of her modest circumstances and her blue collar upbringing. Natalie remains awkward and uncertain, and it’s literally uncomfortable watching her spiral downward as she gets wrapped up in Patrick and loses her focus on school.
If you’ve ever been the one at school that hangs around on the periphery and never quite feels like you fit in, then you may well relate to Natalie. I think her character was believeable to anyone who has been to college and struggled to find their way. The other characters in the book were fairly one-dimensional and interchangeable and I never really understood why Natalie’s family, especially her six older brothers, treated her so badly. A subplot focusing on the suicide of one of Natalie’s brothers when she was a child and how it affected her later wasn’t really fleshed out as well as it might have been either.