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Visual Novel / The Freshman

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Emily and Chris

One of the originating 'books' in Creator/Pixelberry's Choices: Stories You Play series, The Freshman tells the story of a college freshman who finds herself caught between three different potential love interests, a rival Alpha Bitch, a demanding literature professor, and a score of kind and quirky friends and roommates. Like other works by Pixelberry, the game is high on genre cliches, but also remarkably earnest and diverse.

The Freshman is told in a visual novel format, with choices allowing for brief branches that allow for different love interest scenes and occasionally lead to slightly different outcomes down the line. It also has a premium currency - the player is granted a certain number of jewels when starting the app, and is gifted a single jewel at the end of every chapter, with these jewels able to unlock premium options that allow the player to wear nicer outfits (which give small bonuses or scene changes), extra scenes, or whole mini-books. Of course, jewels can be purchased instantly through Microtransactions.


The franchise covers main entries The Freshman: Book 1, The Freshman: Book 2, The Freshman: Book 3 and The Freshman: Book 4 and free bonus books The Freshman: Snowed In and The Freshman: Love Bites, and buyable character-centric The Masquerade (James), The Perfect Date (Kaitlyn) and Luxury Getaway (Chris), all set after the end of book 1. As of March 19, 2020, these books are now free and no longer cost diamonds to play.

The sequel novel The Sophomore was released, with Book 1 debuting in July 12, 2017. The third entry of the series, The Junior was released on April 9, 2018. The fourth and final entry, The Senior, was released on September 14, 2018.

On December 21, 2018, the final chapter in the Senior was released, concluding the Freshman saga.

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    The Freshman 

The Freshman has the following tropes:

  • Adult Fear: While a lot of the conflict rides on typical Rom Com contrivances, the franchise occasionally incorporates more realistic plot threads such as Emily trying to afford her tuition when her father loses his job, Kaitlyn being hospitalized due to alcohol poisoning, and Vasquez dying of cancer.
  • The All-American Boy: Chris has the look, hobby (football player), and nice guy personality.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Emily's mom when she meets her love interest at the beginning of Book 2.
  • Amicable Exes: In book three, if the player chooses to break up with Chris, Kaitlyn or James, all three of them will still be best friends with Emily.
  • Alpha Bitch:
    • Becca. Though she does help the protagonist against Sebastian in Book 2, so she might be not entirely a villain. Moreover, she's on her way to becoming a love interest for the main character.
    • Book 3 gives us Natasha as the leader of Kaitlyn's new Punk band.
  • Artistic License – Education: In Book 3, Kaitlyn winds up on academic probation because she missed all her midterms, but she gets to make them up a week before finals. Academic probation is the result of a deficient GPA, which wouldn't get updated in the middle of a term. Plus, Kaitlyn is lucky that her classes, all in different departments, would let her make up an exam so late into the term and coordinate the exams so well.
    • It would be extremely unusual to say the least for a school to give the best accommodations (apartment-style suites with bathrooms and kitchens and where each resident gets a private bedroom) to freshmen while consigning more senior students to basic shared dorm rooms without amenities, but no one ever so much as remarks on it, even when the characters are complaining about their dorm situations in The Sophomore.
  • Artistic License – History: In-Universe, Edgar isn't upset that he's playing a merchant. It's that he's selling goods from the East India Company, which closed in 1874.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Vasquez and his daughter finally reconcile when his grandson is born.
  • Babysitting Episode Book 3 chapter 8 has Emily babysitting baby Rico.
  • Basement-Dweller: Emily has a cousin named Hanna who lives in her parents' basement with two maxed out cards and an addiction to vintage Hello Kitty merchandise.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Downplayed - Becca and the main character don't get along very well at first, but it's pretty much limited to some coldness and snarky comments (and throwing coffee on each other). By the third book, if MC is not dating anyone, they become friends with benefits.
  • Beta Couple:
    • Zack and Brandon, and Tyler and Abbie. If the player makes the right choices, both have a chance to get together at the end of Book 1. They'll both always be together at the beginning of Book 2, however.
    • In Book Two, the player can influence Madison to pick Tripp or Logan.
    • In Book Three, the player can influence Amara and Darrel's relationship.
  • Bildungsroman: One of the options Emily can choose as the posthumous author for Vasquez' book. The others include a romance and an unexplained car chase.
  • Birds of a Feather:
    • In Book 2, Becca sees a new prospect in Sebastian and the two click immediately because of their shared traits (both are snobby, arrogant and self-absorbed). This goes south near the end of the quarter when Becca admits that Sebastian is too selfish even for Becca herself.
    • Depending on what choices the player makes, Emily can be this with Chris (if she mentions having been a talented multi-sport athlete when she was younger) or James (if she confesses to being a high school valedictorian, Shakespeare nerd, and previous spelling-bee champion).
  • Birthday Episode:
    • Book 1 chapters 11 and 12 take place during Kaitlyn's birthday at a club.
    • Book 3 chapter 6 is all about Madison's birthday at the Sorority House.
  • Blackmail: In Book 2, Sebastian tries to blackmail Chris into dropping his election campaign by revealing to the public that he has a youth offence for stealing a car. The crew (going against Chris's wishes) fight back by finding material about Sebastian to blackmail him back - that he's stealing campaign donations for himself. Chris, however, negates the whole thing by openly admitting his past mistakes to the voting public.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Professor Vasquez coughs up blood into a handkerchief to show he's dying of cancer.
  • Book-Ends: The suitemates play Truth or Truth on their first night in the apartment, and again the night before the end-of-year dance. While this trope is in full effect for the characters it's downplayed for the audience, as it occurs at the end of Book 3, not Book 4.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: Sebastian tries to bribe Chris to drop out of the school election. It doesn't work.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Book 3 chapter 3 has Sebastian acting insulting the cafe's new barista, Zig, tripping him and grabbing Emily, getting him punched in the face to run him out.
  • But Thou Must!: The story is very linear, with the choice of love interest the only major possible branch. This trope is especially in effect in Book 1, where the storyline heavily depends on the protagonist and Chris having feelings for one another - even if the player chooses at every option to express no such interest. Of course, it's always possible to reject him in the end, however.
  • Button Mashing: In the Kaitlyn premium story, Emily and Kaitlyn play a fighting game called Monster Mash. Choosing to button mash wins the game against Kaitlyn.
  • California University: Hartfeld University is this.
  • Callback: If Emily is dating James at the start of Book 2, her mother will mention him taking her to a masquerade ball. Of course, this is in a premium chapter, so it becomes a Noodle Incident if the player hasn't paid diamonds to access it.
  • The Cameo:
    • Alyssa Griffin, a minor character from Most Wanted, makes a cameo as Sebastian's music guest during the school council campaign. Emily can also choose to throw a yellow snowball at her during the snowball fight.
    • Claire Pierce from Rules of Engagement pops up in book 3 chapter 4 holding up the line at the cafe.
    • Book 3 chapter 13 has not only Ryan and Cassandra from Most Wanted as actors for James' movie, but a premium choice that has Emily as an extra for The Crown & the Flame has her meeting Kenna and Dominic's actors and getting an autograph for Tyler and Abbie.
    • Rebecca McKenzie from Most Wanted shows up to fix the van in Book 4 if Emily doesn't have a car repair kit.
  • Character Death: Vasquez dies of Terminal Cancer by the end of Book Two. Before he passed away, he gave the Main Character full scholarship on the condition that she finishes his book.
  • Childhood Friends: Kaitlyn and Arjun.
  • Christmas Episode: The bonus book Snowed In. Book 2 also begins in the Christmas season, and comes with an opportunity for a Christmassy date - if you're willing to pay for it.
  • Comically Missing the Point: In Game of Love, Zack and Brandon sing "I Will Always Love You," but get disqualified since it's actually more of a breakup song instead of a love song.
  • Coming-Out Story: Kaitlyn's arc in book 2 is this.
  • Cross-Cast Role: In-Universe, in the play James puts on in Book 2, Kaitlyn ends up playing the role of the male romantic lead. She didn't audition for that role, but did audition for another male role, with the logic that men played women's roles in drama for centuries, so why not even it out?
  • Dancing Is Serious Business:
    • Emily and Kaitlyn try out a dance class taught by Madison while Becca scoffs at them, even if you get the moves right.Paying diamonds allows you to have a dance battle with Becca.
    • The Game of Love story has a dance-off between surviving couples, which involves Emily having to keep her and her partner moving without stopping for anything.
  • Dead Guy Junior: After Professor Vasquez dies, Gabriella names her newborn son Enrique after her father.
  • Disappeared Dad: A premium choice in book 3 chapter 1 has Chris reveal his father just left with no note or explanation, and he's never seen him since.
  • Doorstopper: The book versions of The Crown and the Flame are these.
  • Dreaming of a White Christmas: At the beginning of Snowed In, Kaitlyn is quite disappointed because there's been hardly any snow that season so far and isn't likely to be any over Christmas - as a Texan native, a snowy Christmas is one of the reasons she chose that college! Of course, as the name suggests, snow does arrive quite soon.
  • Dumb Blonde: Madison.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: You meet Rachel, part of Natasha's band, during book 2. She becomes a regular in book 3.
  • Edible Theme Naming: In book 4 chapter 5, we meet some of Kaitlyn's friends at a country western biker bar. Their names are Spud, Tater Tot, and… Red.
    Emily: Like the color?
    Red: No, like the potato.
  • Epic Fail: In book 3 chapter 2 at the Dungeons and Dragons session, regardless of what class you pick or even what actions you take, Emily's character dies horribly after rolling a 1.
  • Everyone Can See It:
    • Tyler and Abbie for pretty much all of Book 1. Although Abbie is often a little slow on the uptake.
    • Everyone can basically tell Logan and Tripp are competing for Madison by book 2 chapter 3. Becca even tells her so.
  • Executive Meddling:
    • In-Universe during book 2, Yasmin Udoka tries to get James to change the ending of his play from a Downer Ending to a Happy Ending.
    • Played straight during book 3 chapter 13 when you find out James' play has now been turned from a Victorian Era drama to a 1930s gangster flick.
  • "Fawlty Towers" Plot: James tells his parents that he already has a fiance in order to get them to stop trying to set him up. When they show up at college unexpectedly, he ropes the main character into pretending to be that fiance - only for his parents to invite the two of them out to dinner. The player has the opportunity to tell James' parents about the deception partway through the dinner, but if they don't, James will anyway.
  • Fish out of Water: Book 3 chapter 2 has Emily and Kaitlyn join Tyler's Dungeons & Dragons group. Kaitlyn has no idea what's going on.
  • Follow in My Footsteps: On the surface, James seems like he wouldn't have any problems with this, being an intelligent, hard-working, and successful literature major well on his way to having a published work. Unfortunately for him, his parents don't want to hear it unless he's sucessful in business specifically.
  • Gayngst: Kaitlyn is totally okay with being a lesbian - as long as her parents never get to find out. Naturally, that's what she ends up having to deal with in Book 2.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: In book 1 during a game, Darren's ankle is injured, allowing Chris to sub for him. He's sad that it'll be healed just in time for the season to be over.
  • Gay Best Friend: Zack, as well as Kaitlyn. Book 3 chapter 2 has Zack reveal that while he was accepted in his school, he didn't want to be the Camp Gay stereotype.
  • Gay Option:
    • Two male love interests and one female.
    • As of book three, three male love interests and two female.
  • Genius Bruiser: Zig had gotten high marks on the SATs and had offers from colleges until his arts revoked the offers.
  • Get Out!: When Emily confronts Vasquez about his daughter Gabriella, he's quite mad.
  • Girl Posse: In Book 3, Kaitlyn joins a punk band named "The Gutter Kittens", composed of Natasha, Rachel and Amara.
  • Give Geeks a Chance: In Book 2, the player has the option of setting up Madison with Tripp. Strangely enough, Madison and Tripp started bonding over cartoons.
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: After the football game in book 1 chapter 5, Madison is cheering about Chris's homerun on 6th and 10.
  • Group Hug: Pretty frequently.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Professor Vasquez. He and the main character do warm up to each other over time, but he never loses his grumpiness.
  • Halloween Episode: The Love Bites story, which is told at the beginning that it's non-canon.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]:
    • The main character is nameable; the default name is 'Emily'.
    • You can even do the same to Gabriela's newborn son with the default name of Felix, though it's moot since he'll eventually be given the name Enrique regardless of what you suggest.
    • In book 3 chapter 2, you can also do the same for whatever character you pick in the Dungeons & Dragons group.
    • In book 4 chapter 2, you get to name a lobster you catch while in Maine. The default name is Gerald.
  • Hidden Depths: Becca is actually into Black Flag.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: According to Madison, Logan and Darren, Becca is capable of being a good friend when she wants too. Madison in general is very loyal to her and often handwaves her bad attitude with this trope. And Logan recalls that Becca once yelled at his ex-girlfriend after she cheated on him.
  • Hollywood Nerd: Edgar fills quite a bit of geeky stereotypes.
  • I Call It "Vera": Going on a date with Chris in book 2 chapter 3 reveals he has a sled he calls "The Falcon."
  • I'm Standing Right Here: In book 3 chapter 3, Chris (if Emily is dating him) can have this reaction if she checks out the new barista, Zig.
  • I Never: The group plays one of these in book 3 chapter 6.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Arjun has a crush on Kaitlyn, who is a lesbian. Also, Kaitlyn has a crush on Emily, and it's up to the player whether she returns Kaitlyn's feelings or pursues one of the male love interests instead.
  • It Amused Me: Variation with Vasquez - he deliberately orders the main character to do certain things for him expressly because he knows it will cause drama, but for the ultimate purpose of writing a novel set on a college campus where the protagonist's reports serve as inspiration and fodder.
  • It's Up to You: Emily is the one who has to resolve everything that happens, including what her friends and other students accomplish.
  • I've Heard of That — What Is It?: When James compliments Logan on his gravitas he agrees he has plenty of...whatever that is. When James repeats 'gravitas,' he responds with, "No thanks, I'm not hungry."
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: Book 3 chapter 7 reveals Zig went to juvie for beating up his little sister's abusive boyfriend, and he'd have done it again.
  • Lampshade Hanging: When Emily tells Zack that Vasquez has assigned her to convince all of her friends to put on a production of James' play for a huge agent in only a few days, Zack comments that the whole situation is "a bit on the nose..."
  • Linked List Clue Methodology: The sorority scavenger hunt works this way, with the clues becoming increasingly obvious and lazy as they go on.
  • Liquid Courage: Kaitlyn attempts this to get up the nerve to confess to the main character in Book 1. Unfortunately, she goes too far and ends up with alcohol poisoning.
  • Lovable Jock: Chris and Darren. Logan is also relatively good-natured, if also a Dumb Jock.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places:
    • During Truth or Truth, Chris can confess to having had sex in the middle of the football field with his ex.
    • Some of the sex scenes in the storyline count as well, such as Emily and James having sex in the middle of the stage in Book 2.
  • Masquerade Ball: The premium story for James is not only named this, but takes place during one.
  • The Matchmaker: Zack immediately elects to pair together Tyler and Abbie and ropes Emily in as well. Apart from this, the player can also matchmake Zack himself with his crush Brandon.
    • In Book 2, the player can encourage Madison to pick Tripp or Logan.
  • Meet Cute:
    • Emily and Chris first meet when they collide at the Quad and all of her clothes fly off her suitcase.
    • Emily meets James at Vasquez's office and the player can have the option to confuse him with the professor, in which James will go along and request a coffee.
  • Meta Guy: Vasquez is an atypical example, but as he's specifically using the main character's school life as inspiration for his new novel, he often comments about the events of the story as if it were a novel. For example, when the main character tells him about Becca, he responds that she sounds like a perfect villain.
  • Mood Killer: If the player decides to romance James, he'll be leaning in to kiss Emily for the first time when Gabriela finally calls her back.
  • Musical Theme Naming: Starting with book 3 chapter 12 and even going all the way into The Sophomore and The Junior, each chapter is named after a song.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Vasquez's troubled past: when his daughter was in college, she confided in him about her struggles and issues with depression, which he then used to write a novel very obviously about her life. He slowly evidences more regret about this as the story goes on, but it doesn't really kick in until his grandson is born and he realises how much time he's missed spending with her already.
  • Named After Someone Famous: Edgar is named after his mom's favorite author, Edgar Allen Poe.
  • Never Live It Down: In-Universe in book chapter 16, you can pay diamonds to play Truth or Truth with your friends. Tyler can be asked about his most embarrassing picture on his phone. It's his and Abbie's heads photoshopped onto Kenna and Dom.
  • Nice Girl: Madison in every aspect. She is naïve, sweet towards everyone rgardless of their status and very loyal. In book two, she won't sign Chris' ballot if the Main Character tries to suggest getting back at Becca for ditching her, since she could never do that to a friend despite all. In Book 3, she invites a whole crowd at a punk concert to her birthday party, despite Becca's complaints.
  • Nice Guy: Chris, Darren and Taylor.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • James, prior to his redesign, greatly resembled actor Michael B. Jordan.
    • Tyler has a similar appearance to Harry Shum, Jr.
    • Brandon looks quite a bit like a brunette Ian Gallagher.
    • Sebastian, prior to his redesign, strongly resembled Eddie Redmayne.
  • Oh, Crap!: At the end of book 2 chapter 10, Kaitlyn has this reaction to her parents waiting for her at the dorm, especially since she hasn't yet come out of the closet to them.
  • Parlor Games: The roommates play a game of Truth or Truth on their first day together to get to know one another better. Later, when trying to pledge for the sorority, the girls play a proper game of Truth or Dare. Most notably, Becca dares Kaitlyn to kiss the main character... which ends up being not nearly as bad for her as she expected.
  • Put on a Bus: Brandon goes to Peru for an exchange program during spring.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Sebastian calls the group this in book 3 chapter 3.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Emily can choose to do this with Chris, Kaitlyn, or James at the end of Book 1.
  • Road Trip Plot: Book 4 is about Emily and the gang going on a summer long road trip in Zack's van that he got from his uncle.
  • Romantic Fake–Real Turn: On James' part (or both parties, if the player so chooses) when Emily agrees to pose as his fianceé.
  • Running Gag: Tyler thinking burglars are trying to break in to the apartment.
  • Sadist Teacher: Professor Vasquez. Even though being assistant to him is for some students the one route to paying for their education, none ever lasted longer than a week - until the main character.
  • Scavenger Hunt: In Book 1 during the sorority rush, Emily, Kaitlyn and Abbie have to find a monogrammed sweater of a founding Kappa Phi Sigma sister.
  • Second-Act Breakup: Book 3 chapter 8 has Emily and her partner choosing either to break up or stay together and make it work. If they stay together, they still have another chance to break up later in the book (the specific chapter depends on the chosen love interest), and it's up to the player whether or not they do so.
  • Second Love: Chris spent his whole high school life with one girlfriend he dearly loved, but she broke up with him immediately when she realised they'd be going to separate colleges. He claims in the first episode that he's still not over her - but it doesn't stop him from hitting on the main character pretty quickly.
  • Sequel Hook: All the books resolve the main conflicts of the season, but the last scene introduces a new plot point waiting to be answered.
    • Book 1 ends with Emily discovering Vasquez is dying of cancer.
    • Book 2 resolves everyone's personal arcs, but what about Emily's scholarship? Turns out Vasquez gave instructions to give her a full scholarship with the only condition that she completes his book before the year ends.
  • Sexual Extortion: Yasmin tries to use her role as his agent to manipulate James into accepting her advances. Thankfully, it doesn't work.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: The game gives many opportunities to get intimate with the love interests (almost always via premium currency), and while the scenes get a lot more suggestive than any previous Pixelberry game, they always end with this trope.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • The series gives you chances to hook people up. Book 1 has you helping Zack with Brandon and Tyler with either Abbie or Leila. Book 2 allows you to ship Madison with either Logan or Tripp. Book 3 allows you to ship Amara with Darren.
    • Zack has been trying to set up Tyler and Abbie in Book 1 and ropes Emily in to help.
    • Kaitlyn's parents want her to be with Arjun before knowing about Kaitlyn's real preferences.
    • Book 4 chapter 4 allows Emily to help either Zack or Zig hook up with James' friend Teddy.
    • Emily's mother is very gung-ho about her daughter's significant other to the point where she cheerfully reminds Emily to use protection, much to her mortification.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In some scenes, the characters casually talk about The Crown & the Flame. In Book 3, Tyler and Abbie ship Kenna and Dominic from that series with Emily having the option to agree with them or ship Dominic with Rose or Sei.
    • The premium choice in Game of Love allows Emily and her partner to learn new dance moves, like the Bow Tie. Getting all three choices right gets you the achievement of "Bow Ties Are Cool."
    • Book 3 chapter 6 has Hayley Rose's song, "Outlaw," playing from Most Wanted.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: In Book 3, Amara asks Emily if Darren is single, giving the options between telling her off (because her friends insulted Tyler and Abbie) or encouraging her to go talk to him (because she was the only one who apologized on behalf of the group). Natasha, Rachel, Becca and Madison are being heard commenting on them being an Odd Couple.
  • Slice of Life: The series revolve around a group of six roommates going through their first year of college, Love Triangles, scholarships and other normal activities for college students.
  • Smug Snake: Sebastian, who is convinced that anyone who didn't get the same very expensive education that he did is beneath him.
  • Snowball Fight: Emily and her friends manage to get Chris enough signatures for the school president election by giving away free snowballs if they sign his petition, which of course ends up in a snowball fight.
  • Snowed-In: Obviously, bonus story Snowed In.
  • So Bad, It's Good: In-Universe, in Snowed In, the player has the choice between saying that it's important to watch the Lightning Bug Christmas Special because it might reveal important plot points, or because it's probably going to be hilariously bad.
  • So Proud of You: Vasquez tells Emily this at the end of Book 2.
  • Static Role, Exchangeable Character: The major plot points involving Emily and her love interests follow the same general arc throughout the series regardless of who the love interest is, with the story even going out of the way to put in factors that will allow the same sort of conflict to occur regardless of who the character is with (for example, all three love interests having a conflict that pulls them away from Emily in Book 3). In The Junior and The Senior, Zack fills this role if the character is single; it works in The Junior because the conflict has to do with the challenges of living together, but is a lot iffier in The Senior because the issues in that book are relationship-related, and a best friend just isn't on the same level for a lot of it.
  • Straight Gay: Zack and Brandon. Kaitlyn as well. Emily can be this if you choose to go with Kaitlyn.
  • Teacher's Pet: James for Vasquez, to an extent, because he's a big fan of his writing and extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with him.
  • Token Good Teammate: Madison between her and Becca. In Book 3, Amara is this compared to the rest of the band.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Probably due to budget constraints, the beach foraging scene in Book 4 reuses a lot of scenery from Endless Summer...including the tropical flowers and their gently pulsating light.
  • Uptown Girl: The basis for James' play, with all the drama that entails. Emily and James' relationship also counts if the player has them get together but is not a source of conflict, with the brief exception of Olivia Ashton suspecting that Emily is using their "relationship" to further her career.
  • Valentine's Day Episodes: Game of Love is this.
  • Voluntary Vampire Victim: In the Halloween Episode where Kaitlyn turns into a vampire, her friends volunteer to have their blood sucked, and also ask others to give Kaitlyn a drink or two.
  • Wiki Walk: Book 3 chapter 6 has Zig reveal he knows about Dungeons and Dragons by going down the "Wikipedia rabbit hole."
  • What Does She See in Him?:
    • Becca, as well as Natasha and Rachel, have this reaction if Emily hooks up Amara with Darren.
    • In the Valentines Day Special, if the Main Character chooses Chris as her pair, he gets to say this after Becca taunts them before the Dance Challenge.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In book 2, Emily gets hit twice by this. For James, it happens whether you tell him or not about Vasquez's cancer. For Chris, he gets upset about the group blackmailing Sebastian during the election.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Hartfeld University is in a town called Northridge. It's said that it's less than two hours away from San Francisco by train and it snows there in winter. However, the gang's road trip in Book 4 begins with Zack meeting Emily and Zig on campus before going to Maine to pick up Chris followed by going to New York to pick up James, then Austin to pick up Kaitlyn, then meeting Tyler and Abbie in San Francisco before finally going to the music festival which is being held at an unspecified location in California; all in all, a very strange route if Hartfeld is located near the West Coast.
    • In The Senior, Samantha Winters from Veil of Secrets is the judge presiding over Becca's mock trial; Veil of Secrets takes place in Massachusetts, providing support for the notion that Hartfeld is in the northeastern United States.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: Zack is a huge fan of Domesticated Antelope.
  • You See, I'm Dying: At the end of Book 1, Emily learns that Professor Vasquez has cancer.

    The Sophomore 
  • All the Other Reindeer:
    • Zig still feels like an outsider, since everyone in Hartfeld (with the exception of the gang) from his roommates to his football team (minus Chris) are actively avoiding him or talking behind his back.
    • Becca feels this about her new status as the Fallen Princess, since she got in a self-imposed exile from her Sorority and thinks her sisters and Madison backstabbed her by not electing her as the house leader.
  • Armoured Closet Gay: Manny was known to be a homophobe until... he forced a kiss on Zig.
  • The Band Minus the Face: Kaitlyn's new band TBD is essentially the Gutter Kittens minus Natasha.
  • Beta Couple: Abbie and Tyler are the only stable couple among the main characters and are the only ones who don't have roommate drama because they decided to move in together for their Sophomore year.
    • At least until mid-book when they have a lot drama.
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • The Sophomore introduces Uskea, a knockoff of cheap-furniture giant Ikea.
    • A premium scene makes mention of Mrs. Twombly's "Stumblr" (Tumblr) account.
  • Cool House: The gang (minus Tyler and Abbie, who decided to live together) and Becca move to Professor Vasquez's old house, which has a low rent due to Gabriela renting it to them as a favor and a fixer upper. After the renovation, Emily gets settled in Vasquez's old studio, since she thinks it will help her connect more with her old mentor.
  • Cue the Falling Object: When Emily shows Kaitlyn, Zack, and Chris the house for the first time, a tile falls off of the roof.
  • Halloween Episode: For Halloween 2017, this series gets “The Sophomore: Hartfeld Horror Story.”
  • Hard-Work Montage: Used when making repairs to the house.
  • Roommate Com: One of the starting subplots established the gang suffering with their respective assignated roommates: Emily got paired with Rachel, Kaitlyn gets paired with Leila, Zack got Edgar and Chris got Manny. They later move into Vasquez's old house after Gabriela lets them rent it as a fixer upper. The next arc becomes "Living with Becca", as she's still trying to fit in and be less rude towards the gang.
  • School Clubs Are Serious Business: Zig is obligated to join a Campus Activity, since his scholarship requires it. He makes it onto the Football Team, while James becomes editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, a job he takes extremely seriously.
  • School Newspaper News Hound: College level. Now that James and Emily are done with the Literature Faculty, they decide to join the University Newspaper as writers.
  • Sexiled: In his backstory, Chris was thrown out of his room twice by Manny in order to have sex with his girlfriend. Chris even drops the trope name at one point while discussing this.
  • Shipper on Deck: If you are not dating either James or Kaitlyn, Emily can help pair them with Reyna and Anissa, respectively.
  • Shirtless Scene: A running gag in "Hartfeld Horror Story" is how Chad (Chris's counterpart) keeps taking his shirt off for no reason.
  • Sixth Ranger:
    • After Freshman Book 3 and 4, Zig and James are official members of the gang.
    • Becca becomes the fifth suitemate when Emily invites her to move in with them. Everyone still treats her like My Friends... and Zoidberg.
  • So Bad, It's Good: In-Universe example. This is the gang's reaction to Twombly's story in "Hartfeld Horror Story".
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: If Emily decides to help James interview new staff writers.
  • Trash of the Titans: Emily's designated roommate is Rachel. Apparently nobody wanted to bunk with her in two years, since her mess is huge. It gets to the point where Emily finds a nest of cockroaches under a pizza box that quickly go inside her pile of dirty laundry. While Rachel is aware that her room fits every available definition of "unsanitary", she brushes it off as "building an immunity to germs and the plague in case of a epidemic". Nobody knows if she's just joking or being serious.
  • What Is This Feeling?: Becca is very disturbed by how she feels when she's...nice to people...

    The Junior 
  • Darker and Edgier: While the first books had some mature content, The Junior takes things a bit further, with the plot centering around a vicious conspiracy aimed at terrorizing Emily and her friends, including two pranks that could have killed someone, a faked kidnapping, and an attempt to frame Emily for arson. One character (and possibly two others, depending on player choices) ends up serving a long prison sentence.
  • Deadly Prank: The book features a central plot revolving around a campus prankster whose pranks are not of the harmless variety.
  • Engineered Public Confession:
    • In the premium option to go back and demand a copy of Becca's faked law application, Emily will record the admissions counselor's sexist comments and use it to blackmail him into giving them the application.
    • In the final chapter, Nathan makes the mistake of telling Emily everything about the pranks and his motivations for no reason. Turns out that all his confession was recorded and broadcasted to all the student body.
  • Hypocritical Humor: If Emily has her friends create a distraction so she can sneak backstage, Abbie and Tyler run in yelling about eating the rich. This leads Sebastian to awkwardly add, "Uh, yes. Wealth disparity is...very unfair!"
  • Love Interest: If Emily isn't dating any of the five original Love Interests, this novel introduces a new one, Nathan.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Sebastian reveals the whole reason he was running for student body president was to embezzle from it, because that was the prank assigned to him as his initiation into ATM’s secret circle, he was kicked out when he was caught. Which makes his actions make a lot more sense as Becca mentioned back in original series he was already rich.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: If Emily is single, she and Zack develop this dynamic in The Junior and The Senior.
  • Roommate Com: One of the central subplots is Emily living with just one roommate (her Love Interest if she has one, or Zack if she is single.)
  • Sheltered Aristocrat: In Book 1 Chapter 2, Sebastian calls Emily for help... with his laundry, since he doesn't know how to use a washing machine. Emily can sense that it might not be the real reason why he's avoiding the Alphas.

    The Senior 
  • The Cameo: Chapter 6 features Samantha Winters from Veil of Secrets as the judge presiding over Becca's mock trial. Later in the chapter, at a gaming convention, a poster can be seen featuring Dopey Cat from #LoveHacks.
  • Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: In Chapter 6 when a rude gamer gives Abbie crap for her art in Dragon Jest, Tyler is about to throw down the gauntlet and Zack tells Emily that beating the gamer not only ruins his credibility but also gives the game free press.
  • Grand Finale: Chapter 15 is the final chapter not just in the Senior, but the Freshman saga as well.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her.../Mama Bear: Becca's mom will give this speech to Emily, even if she and Becca are not dating.
  • No Antagonist: Unlike The Freshmannote , The Sophomorenote , and The Juniornote , there's no Big Bad or even a minor antagonist in this book. All of the series' antagonists (both major and minor) have either been redeemednote  or dealt with and written outnote . Instead, the main conflict in this book is how the characters deal with the future (particularly Emily's parents spliting up in Chapter 10 and the falling out Emily and her roommate have in Chapter 12).
  • Shout-Out:

    The Freshman: Love Bites 
  • Alternate Reality Episode: And not canon.
  • Daywalking Vampire: Although Kaitlyn develops an "allergy" to the sun, she's perfectly able to go outside when she needs to.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The plot of the second episode centers around convincing people that vampires really aren't so different from the rest of us and making Kaitlyn know she's supported, which calls forward to her coming-out plot in Book 2.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • Apparently Zack totally missed the fact that Kaitlyn has fangs. Emily can either say she noticed them or not.
    • Becca initially pegs Emily as being the vampire, despite Kaitlyn's new goth digs and fangs.
  • Fantastically Indifferent: No one has any difficulty believing that Kaitlyn is a vampire, and expresses only mild wariness that she'll drink their blood.
  • Genre Blindness: Kaitlyn, the resident horror movie buff, leads the crew through a graveyard during the full moon.
  • Halloween Episode
  • Major Injury Underreaction: When Becca puts her stiletto straight through the palm of Kaitlyn's hand, she responds with a mild "ouch."
  • Meet My Good Friends "Lefty" and "Righty": Challenging Logan to an arm-wrestling match has him mention that his arms are named Rory and Lorelai.
  • Monster Roommate
  • Pun-Based Title: Love bites, get it? Like a vampire.
  • Shoe Slap: Becca tries to use her stiletto to stake Emily through the heart when she mistakes her for the vampire.
  • Too Dumb to Live: If Emily worries about a zombie attack, Chris says he'd rather fight zombies than ghosts because at least you can punch zombies. Zack points out that if your strategy for fighting zombies includes fighting them hand-to-hand, you're exactly the sort of person who should be scared of zombies.
  • Vampire Episode
  • Voluntary Vampire Victim: The second episode centers around the suitemates volunteering so that Kaitlyn won't have to starve or attack random people, and then going around and recruiting the minor characters when they realize they don't have enough blood all on their own.
  • Zombie Advocate: The whole apartment quickly rallies behind Kaitlyn, and helps to convince the minor characters that vampires aren't so bad, really.

    The Freshman, Snowed In 
  • Brutal Honesty: If Emily hooks up in Vasquez's office, she has the option to bluntly admit it when he asks her.
  • Christmas Episode: While Hannukah and Kwanzaa also get a shout-out, the actual holiday activities are mostly Christmas-themed.
  • Interquel: Set between Book 1 and 2 of The Freshman.
  • Snowed-In: Obviously.
  • Snow Means Love: Going off to find a phone gives Emily and her love interest the chance for some alone time, which can be either sweet or sexy, depending on player choices.
  • So Bad, It's Good: The in-universe Lightning Bug holiday special.

    The Freshman, Game of Love 
  • Get a Room!: Zack and Brandon towards Emily and her date, which she immediately shoots back at them.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Apparently, Twombly is willing to rent out an entire floor of a swanky restaurant for you and your date.
    • Emily herself, for Zack and Brandon.
  • Sore Loser: If Becca and Sebastian lose, they'll tag along at the same restaurant as Emily and her date, but argue the whole time.
  • Valentine's Day Episode

    James: Masquerade Ball 

Alternative Title(s): The Sophomore


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