500 Words or Less
500 Words or Less

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Annotation: “Compelling.” —School Library Journal “Moving.” —Publishers Weekly “Poignant.” —Kirkus Reviews A high school senior atte... more
Catalog Number: #206041
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2020
Edition Date: 2020
Pages: 372 pages
Availability: Available
New Title: Yes
ISBN: Publisher: 1-534-41045-7 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-7249-7
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-534-41045-9 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-7249-5
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2017048137
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
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 ile 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.
Horn Book
Biracial girl Nic Chen exists in a holding pattern: without her (runaway) mother, without her boyfriend, and without a clear sense of who she is beyond the wealthy star student who cheated on the school's golden boy. After stumbling into ghostwriting her classmates' college admissions essays--about love, loss, connection, and wholeness--Nic finally begins to grapple with the tensions that exist within herself. A moving coming-of-age novel in verse.
Kirkus Reviews
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)
Publishers Weekly
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. (Sept.)
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Horn Book
ALA Booklist
Publishers Weekly
Kirkus Reviews
Reading Level: 7.0
Interest Level: 9-12
Lexile: HL740L
500 Words or Less

This was senior year

Someone had written WHORE

in bright orange lipstick

on my locker.

It was waiting for me

after third period,

like an old friend


around after class.

For the past three weeks,

I have filed down these halls,

opened this locker,

stuffed textbooks

and slightly damp rain jackets inside.

I've regurgitated facts,

aced exams,

daydreamed about life

at an Ivy like Princeton,

and sometimes I've thought

about Ben.

It was life in a holding pattern,

circling around an airport

where you can't yet land.

I glanced over to Jordan's locker

and saw its pristine state.

No bright orange lipstick.

Was there even a male equivalent

to the word "whore"?

There were words,

but none that carried

the same weight.

Maybe I would have cried

if I were

a different girl.

But this was senior year,

and my life was more than

a series of letters

scrawled on a locker, vying

to break me.

Excerpted from 500 Words or Less by Juleah del Rosario
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

“Compelling.” —School Library Journal
“Moving.” —Publishers Weekly
“Poignant.” —Kirkus Reviews

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 Elizabeth Acevedo.

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.

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