Review: Alicia Thompson – Psych Major Syndrome

Thompson_Alicia-PsychMajorSyndrome

Title: Psych Major Syndrome
Author: Alicia Thompson
Hyperion
Rating: 3.5 / 5

Using the skills you’ve learned so far in Introduction to Psychology, please write a brief self-assessment describing how things are going in your freshman year.
Presenting Concerns:
The Patient, Leigh Nolan (that would be me), has just started her first year at Stiles College. She has decided to major in psychology (even though her parents would rather she study Tarot cards, not Rorschach blots).
Patient has always been very good at helping her friends with their problems, but when it comes to solving her own…not so much.
Patient has a tendency to overanalyze things, particularly when the opposite sex is involved. Like why doesn’t Andrew, her boyfriend of over a year, ever invite her to spend the night? Or why can’t she commit to taking the next step in their relationship? And why does his roommate Nathan dislike her so much? More importantly, why did Nathan have a starring role in a much-more-than-friendly dream?
Aggravating factors include hyper-competitive fellow psych majors, a professor who’s badly in need of her own psychoanalysis, and mentoring a middle-school-aged girl who thinks Patient is, in a word, naive.
Diagnosis:
Psych Major Syndrome (goodreads.com)

I was in the library, digging through the stacks for some books to replace the ones I’d just turned in, and I came across this. The title caught my eye, I barely glanced at the summary, but I threw it into my stack anyway.

(Truth be told, I was curious what it was going to say about psych majors, since I was, you know, a psych major.)

So overall, I thought the book was pretty good. It’s a cute, mostly fluffy book. There aren’t really any serious tones, so it’s a pretty quick, light read. After the heavy-hearted If You Find Me, I really needed something this light.

I really liked Leigh’s roommate, Ami, and the relationship Leigh has with her. Ami is aloof enough to be an understanding friend, and caring enough to really let Leigh know when she thinks Leigh is screwing up.

There’s a little bit of humor in it, too, in particular relating to Leigh’s volunteer work with “at risk” students of a nearby middle school. These scenes at the volunteer meetings, where the college volunteers interact with the middle school students, actually touched a nerve with me, in particular when they spend a few sessions discussing teen pregnancy. Leigh is all for actually educating the middle school kids, and the teacher/supervisor overseeing the meetings basically tells her that she can’t tell them anything except abstinance, and that sex is BAD.

This touched such a nerve that I actually wanted to reach into the book, slap the supervisor, and throw a bunch of research at her that shows the correlation between “abstinance-only” sex ed and teen pregnancy/spread of STD’s amongst minors.

Oh yes. Hot-button issue for me, and I didn’t even know it was that bad until I read this book.

I really liked Leigh, sometimes. Other times, she grated my nerves a little, in the same way that a naive younger sister would. Leigh is blinded by her love for her boyfriend, and wants so badly to spend the rest of her life with him. She is convinced they are each other’s soul mates, and refuses to believe otherwise, even with evidence stacked against her:

“I’m sorry that you feel I don’t want to spend time with you.” (p. 22)

This set my inner alarm bells ringing. That, coupled with the fact that Andrew is completely focused on nothing but his “career”, and wants Leigh to be exactly like him (despite the fact that she obviously isn’t), drove me crazy. Of course, their relationship slowly breaks apart over the course of the novel, and Leigh tries to discuss fixing their relationship. Of course, Andrew comes back with this:

“But I’m not the half that needs to be fixed.” (p. 197)

I was so, so happy when they broke up (less so about the circumstances, because Andrew just proves Leigh’s roommate right, that he’s a slimeball).

So here are my main problems with this.

One:
The relationship between Leigh and Nathan seems rushed. Leigh spends a lot of the novel convinced that Nathan hates her. When she finally realizes the truth, after she and Andrew have broken up, which takes place roughly 2/3 into the novel, they end up spending a lot of time together, but it still feels rushed, as if the author realized, oh crap! I’m running out of pages! I’d have actually liked to see Leigh break up with Andrew earlier in the novel, and then spend some time getting over him before jumping into it with Nathan.

Two:
Leigh wins a contest and ends up traveling to the awards ceremony with one of the campus administrators and one of the other winners who also attends her college. The other winner is named Li, is Asian, and there’s all sorts of fun poked at his expense in stereotypical Asian fashion.

I’m of Asian descent. This didn’t exactly endear the book to me.

So there you go. If you can get past the rushed feeling, and the Asian stereotyping, it’s a cute, fluffy book. I’d at least recommend borrowing it from the library.

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