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500 Words or Less

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  203 Ratings  ·  81 Reviews
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 com
Hardcover, 373 pages
Published September 25th 2018 by Simon Pulse
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Whitney Atkinson
There was nothing particularly wrong with this book, but it was just so mediocre that I know I won't think about it ever again. I didn't really understand why this book needed to be written in verse because it stunted the delivery of the book, but if the author had chosen to written the whole book out instead, it would have probably been so boring and just as unremarkable. Although this book had a cool aim and cast of characters, we weren't really let in to know a lot about them, so it fell flat ...more
julianna ➹
the mc's thought process is basically a depiction of all my darkest thoughts on sleepless nights

Maybe I was broken inside,
with a moral compass
that no longer pointed north.

Or maybe I just wanted
to be wanted,
to be heard,
to be seen,
by someone.


500 Words or Less is about a half-Chinese, half-white girl who went through a breakup in the past and basically lost the friends most important to her. And while she's trying to discover herself, she starts a business where she starts writing college a
Cassandra {semi-hiatus}
*Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review!*

“When I write essays,

I write about the emotionally raw moments,

the lowest points,

the authentic experiences that change and shape us.

I am more than writing college essays.

I am telling stories that we are too afraid to tell,

because to tell them is to relive them,

and sometimes it hurts too much.”

First, forgive the formatting. My ARC was digital and for some reason my Kindle messed with the format of the ve
The premise is intriguing and quite novel. However, the execution left a lot to be desired. I think this mainly stemmed from the limitations of its format. Frankly, I just could not see why this story had to be told in verse. Honestly, I think the impact of 500 Words or Less would have been more beautifully delivered in narrative form.

I was a bit worried about the possibility that this book might inadvertently glorify or romanticize cheating in relationships. Thankfully, that did not happen at
Danielle (Life of a Literary Nerd)
“Maybe I was broken inside,
with a moral compass
that no longer pointed north.

Or maybe I just wanted
to be wanted,
to be heard,
to be seen,
by someone.


I actually really liked parts of 500 Words or Less - Nic writing the essays for her classmates, and her overall journey of what’s expected of her from society versus what she wants/needs in life. The essays were great at letting us get to know the other characters and Nic’s mindset and personality. I really loved seeing Nic challenge the racism
❈ laura ❈
“Maybe I was broken inside,
with a moral compass
that no longer pointed north.

Or maybe I just wanted
to be wanted,
to be heard,
to be seen,
by someone.



Rep: biracial mc (half-Chinese, half-white)
TW: cheating, death, loneliness, slut-shaming, parental abandonment.

I don't know if books written in verse is not my thing, but what I know is that this book wasn't for me.

In 500 Words or Less we follow Nic Chen who started her senior year after she went through a breakup after she cheated on her
Yusra  ✨
Sep 02, 2018 marked it as to-read
i'm trash for well-written novel in verse
Joy McCullough
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely LOVED this gorgeously written novel-in-verse. Full of moral complexity and no easy answers, put this on your TBR!!!
Samantha (WLABB)
Nic had lost a lot in the past two years. She lost her mother, her boyfriend, her friends, herself. Her senior year was not the one she imagined, but it was the one, where she came to understand herself and others, step by step, in 500 words or less.

This book was not a lighthearted read. It was raw, real, and painful at times. There was a layer of sadness, which got thicker and thicker, until I was full-on crying. Eventually, though, some light broke through, and hope emerged in the end.

Nic was
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites-ya
Thank you to #netgalley for a free ARC of this book. All opinions are my own.
Raw, real, and an honest look at teens in America, 500 Words or Less is a beautifully written-in prose!!!-book. With a diverse cast of characters, this books captures a senior year in high school perfectly. The book's narrator Nic Chen is flawed and messy and falling apart, and such an excellently written character that you can't but help relate to her and her insights to her classmates.
Nic Chen's mother disappeared and after cheating on her boyfriend with a friend, Nic herself has been branded a slut. From whispers in the hallway to a lipstick scrawl of "whore" on her locker, Nic finds herself feeling isolated from her peers -- and herself.

But when she begins to write college admissions essays for her peers, even though she doesn't need the money, she begins to uncover some of the depths of those around her. Depths she'd never seen before. And when she loses someone important
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
There was literally no reason for this to be in verse, and I'm irrationally annoyed by it.
Rachel Solomon
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-favorites
I devoured this stunning novel-in-verse in one sitting. It's raw and real, painful and hopeful. I felt transported back to high school -- in part because this takes place in a fictionalized version of a Seattle suburb, but also because Juleah del Rosario writes with such empathy for her messy, flawed teen characters.
I just didn't get it. Something fell so flat. And I still can't quite put my finger on it. I had no idea why this book was in verse. There was literally no point. I get that it was about essays that were 500 words or less but it didn't seem to fit with the idea of poetry or verse. At best, the whole thing felt like an odd grouping of Instagram poetry.

As for the story itself, it was generic. A pathetic love triangle with cheating, disappearing moms, absent fathers, oh my! I can't tell you how man
I've always been a huge fan of novels in verse and 500 Words or Less is no exception. I really liked this one and I can definitely see it being relatable for some people. For a verse novel, I really did connect with the main character Nic. The only part I didn't really like was the ending/twist.
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the review copy of this book – all opinions are my own.

It starts with slut-shaming written all over Nic’s locker in lipstick. Nic Chen never dreamed that her senior year would include being outcasted for cheating on her boyfriend with his best friend (and it’s not lost on her that his best friend has suffered no consequences for his part in cheating) and being known as the girl who’s mom walked out. She’s ready to make a new name for herself when she sta
Meredith Thompson
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was my first experience with a novel in verse type book. It was a quick read because of that, but it was also hard-hitting. There were topics that I can't even face about myself that I was forced to for this book and it was beautiful.

Full review to come


Nic Chen doesn't want to be known as the girl that cheated on her boyfriend. In a school full of Ivy League-obsessed classmates, Nic wants to redefine her reputation. To do so, she starts writing their college admis
Jun 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: arcs, verse-novels
Netgalley provided me a DRC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I'm always looking for new verse novels for my library--they are extremely popular and great for reluctant readers. I was really emotionally invested in the first part of this one--Nic is struggling with having cheated on her boyfriend and the aftermath, and having an imperfect narrator generally makes for an interesting, honest story. She's also still dealing with the fact that her mother left, and she's been writing othe
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked this novel about high school angst and imperfect families. Nic, Ben, and Jordan are best friends until Ben and Nic started dating. Then one night, Nic and Jordan betray Ben. None of them are the same. To find herself and her purpose, Nic begins writing admission essays for her classmates. In 500 words or less, she shows them to us, scars and all. I appreciate the publisher and NetGalley allowing me to be an early reader in exchange for my honest review.
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arc
Honestly, this one was just meh. Creating a good narrative with prose poetry is tricky and this one was sort of a miss. It was overly maudlin, I didn't really care about the characters, and there seemed to be no rhyme or reason for any of the decisions that the main character made. I just really really didn't care for this book. I wanted to! And I liked some parts of it--it was really interesting to see the story from the main character's point of view, but that wasn't enough for me to like it.
A.M. Rose
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is beyond amazing. It's full of so many fells from the first page all the way through the end. Juleah is a true literary artist. Her writing style is effortless and beautiful. Each word carries so much weight you can feel it.
Because of this book I want to read all the books in verse.
If you read it, you are sure to love it.
Jun 14, 2018 marked it as to-read
This book is coming at the most opportune moment in my life. It comes out about a month into what will be my senior year of high school in which I will be applying to colleges and write a lot of applications, essays, and scholarship forms. So basically, I will relate to this like hell (most likely).
Melissa Stein
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
OK THIS WAS GREAT! Quick read as well.
Emma (Miss Print)
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
What happens when your attempt to be a better person might be making you worse?

Nic Chen isn’t going to spend her senior year known only as the girl who cheated on her boyfriend with his best friend. She had enough grief when her mom left under a cloud of scandal. This year isn’t going to be a repeat of that.

To revamp her reputation with her Ivy League obsessed classmates, Nic has a simple plan: she will write college admission essays. For a price.

But as Nic learns more about her classmates, she
Sep 14, 2018 rated it liked it
*I received an eArc of this book through Edelweiss*

This was just... fine. I really liked the idea of this book, but the execution left something to be desired.

I hated the main character and her actions made no sense to me. She was supposedly so smart yet everything she did was so dumb. The other characters were pretty one dimensional and I didn't care about them. I felt like I knew more about random people than her 2 best friends, and for the majority of the book it seemed like she barely even l
I did not love this book, however I’m 36 years old. I think that it has the potential to hook high school students.
Emily Polson
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arc, poetry, ya
Not a bad idea for a book--the college entrance essays themselves were interesting, and the author plays with important themes about trying to understand others and ourselves more fully--but it didn't need to be written in verse. There was no logical connection between that choice, the story, and its protagonist; she's writing essays for her peers, which are included in their prose form. In the end, I think the form obscured more than it complemented.

*I received an ARC from the publisher for re
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I cannot rave about this book enough. Every spotlight shone on every character felt like it revealed an insight to someone I’ve known in my life. Delicious small details that bring the story to life. Metaphors so apt they made me want to stand on the nearest chair and shout, “Yes!!”. And now I only want to read fiction written in verse, even if written only half as brilliantly as done here.
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I devoured this book in one sitting. And then I read it again. I can't wait for the book to be available in stores so I can recommend it to everyone I know.
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some of the verse language was really beautiful but it didn't hold that beauty steady over the entire book like Ellen Hopkins does. Looking forward to reading more by the author.
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