Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison on Freshers’ fears and pre-drinks pandemonium


United By Pop received a free copy of Freshers in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are our own.

Title: Freshers

Author: Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

Purchase: Available in the UK and the US

Overall rating: 4/5

Great for: fans of Orlagh Collins, Chad Harbach, and Bret Easton Ellis

Themes: new adult, coming of age, romance, humour, university


Review: After just celebrating my 27th birthday with copious amounts of tea and a nice long walk in the English countryside, I began to contemplate where on earth the girl had gone who would regularly pre-drink a week’s worth of calories in 45 minutes, and strawpedo an entire bottle of apple Sourz for the lolz!

It was also about this time that ‘Freshers’ by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison fell into my hands. Cited as the perfect companion for the pre-university student I wondered what a girl, whose own freshers days were well and truly over, could get out of this?

The answer? A lot!

‘Freshers’ was a chaotic reminder of the outright overindulgence that classifies many UK students’ first-week of university. Phoebe arrives at university still hung-up on her school crush Luke. The problem? Luke never knew she even existed. The bigger problem? Phoebe has just run into him at the first fresher’s social. And she is dressed in Yoda ears.

From this initial hilarious scene, I had assumed the narrative would continue on the expected trajectory of boy meets girl who loves boy who has a sudden epiphany that girl exists. Wrong! Evoking the unexpectedness and disorder of the freshers’ experience it is chronicling, this book delivers exactly everything the reader is unprepared for.

Finally! A book that lends an authentic voice to recapping the university experience! This split-perspective narrative from the two authors that co-penned this, meant that a diverse array of experiences were covered and almost every sort of freshers participation exposed. From the shy and love-sick girl who has yet to find her fit in the group, to the seemingly unobtainable female who seems so sure of her new role in this place… and every place! From the boy both eager to separate himself from his old life and yet pining for the familiarity it holds, to the football ‘lad’ with questionable spare-time activities but an easy-going grace that sees him at the centre of every social function.

Every pair of eyes exposes a truth to life as a fresher. It is an unsteady time where no two experiences are the same and this book perfectly encapsulates the nature of this.

In amongst the pre-drinks punch and endless rounds of Listerine-flavoured shots, this books also delivers an altogether darker portrayal of university life. Many of the individuals inner-fears threaten to overwhelm them in this strange new phase of their lives and for some, it succeeds in doing so. Often it is the toxic gender-set expectations of being ‘one of the lads’ that has the characters acting in an unacceptable fashion and it was horrifying seeing this play out where so many deemed their actions correct when so many others were hurt by their wrong-doings.

‘Freshers’ reminded me of my own university experience and Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison wonderfully and authentically brought to life the heady heights and frightful fears of that confusing time in my life. This accuracy is what ultimately drew me to this narrative. This had me feeling achingly nostalgic for all the weird and wonderful antics of my own first year, and also reminded me just how appreciative I should be that this time of unrivalled chaos is now at a close. For the one thing that binds each and every one of the characters is their own identity crisis at a time of so much change and expectation. I may be glad my own days of debauchery are over, but it’s good to know I have a place to always relive them here.

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