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500 Words or Less

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  1,386 ratings  ·  304 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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 ·  1,386 ratings  ·  304 reviews

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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
Sep 23, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5/5 Stars

This book explores the theme of loss on so many levels: the loss of a mother who ran away without looking back, the loss of first love, the loss of the closest friends you ever had, and also in part the loss of yourself. I liked how most of these themes were tackled and I appreciated Nic's internal monologue and reflections. By deciding to start the college application essays business she definitely discovers more about others, but mostly importantly she discloses parts of herself tha
3.5 stars /// review to come
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Yusra  ✨
Sep 02, 2018 marked it as to-read
i'm trash for well-written novel in verse ...more
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!!!
Lisa (Remarkablylisa)
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: april-2020
I liked this one because of main oc went through so much and made a lot of reckless decisions and became more of it. The ending was tragic and touching.
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
“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 he
Aug 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: reads-of-2018, arcs
*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
CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨
500 Words or Less is not a bad book and has some powerful and relevant things to say, but I do think its potential to be more was undercut by its execution.

- Follows Nic, a biracial Chinese/White teen who is trying to salvage her reputation of cheating on her boyfriend by charging her classmates to write their college admission essays.
- Thematically, this book is relevant, poignant, and powerful. I'm pretty certain that del Rosario is a fantastic writer and that is apparent in this book, and I'
Jan 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020, hey-ya
Note: I had the pleasure of meeting Juleah del Rosario at BookNet Fest 2o18 where we invited her to speak on a couple of panels. She was phenomenal, especially as we talked about intersectionalism in fiction.

What I liked about this book: I read it in an hour and it made me think and feel. It had some poignant moments as they pertained racism, privilege, the misogyny baked into people's reactions to infidelity, abandonment, loneliness and grief. It felt a little angsty and melodramatic, but it
Samantha (WLABB)
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary, arcs, ya, diverse
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
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.
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. ...more
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
This was OK, I guess. I wasn't a fan of any of the characters, hated the double standard of Nic getting all the crap but not Jordan, not a fan of cheating so maybe that is why I just couldn't stand Nic, didn't care about the essays (still think it is funny though that is needed to get anywhere), I did like reading about Nic's family and what happened there, how she is still longing for her mom, for answers. I like how well she can write. I did like reading about the school and the lessons. I lik ...more
Sara (A Gingerly Review)
While this was a quick read, it wasn't anything that I connected to. I struggled to care about the MC because she came across like a love sick tween who thought her world was ending because the boy she loved (or thought she loved) broke up with her (and for good reason). She was OBSESSED with him and that was not healthy, yet nobody would tell her that. How can I connect with a MC like that? Answer: I can't. ...more
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in2018
There was literally no reason for this to be in verse, and I'm irrationally annoyed by it. ...more
Sep 10, 2020 rated it liked it
this book has my name written all over it. and I am SO happy that it delivered. The book starts off well, never slows down or drags and ends in a devastating way. LOVED IT!
Jun 10, 2021 rated it liked it
This book was depressing. I liked how the ending was realistic and everything didn’t turn out perfectly, but I thought one of the character’s deaths was kinda abrupt and unnecessary. Idk this book was just kinda meh but in a heavy way. In some ways, however, it did help me think about my own life.
Sep 17, 2021 rated it liked it
It was thought provoking. I enjoyed it
Suad Shamma
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, 2019
This book was alright. There were some verses that I thought were really good and hit a nerve or made a great point. Especially when it came to the double standards of how men and women are treated.

That being said, I found Nic's obsession with her ex Ben super annoying. She was frustrating and whiny and mopey, and I don't understand fully why she was so obsessed, especially given that there were many hints that he didn't open up fully or feel the same way about her and yes, she cheated on him.
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
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely beautiful. Truly a breathtaking story of finding yourself when you have no clue what that means. This novel is written in verse which really adds that extra touch that sets it apart from any other that I have read with a similar plot. It’s a girl-cheats-on-boyfriend-girl-gets-called-a-slut-girl-tries-to-figure-out-where-she-goes-from-here story that doesn’t end the way you think it will. It has so much depth and makes you feel in that special way that a well written novel in verse can ...more
The main reason this book is getting three stars is because I read it less than a week ago, as of when I'm writing this review, and I remember it as a giant blur of nothing. Nothing about this book stands out. Nothing is special. The fact that it's written in verse didn't add anything to the story. The main character didn't feel developed at all and I could not tell you a single thing about her. It didn't feel like there was a central idea or a message to the plot and the plot itself was rather ...more
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
beautiful, sad, broken and real
Rashika (is tired)
I went into 500 Words or Less not knowing what the book was about at all so I was in for a bit of a surprise when it wasn’t actually a fluffy contemporary?

Nic Chen is a complicated MC. She cheated on her ex, who everyone knew to be a great human being. Worse than that, she cheated on her ex with his best friend (who coincidentally, her ex is still talking too…so…) But she doesn’t want to known as the girl who cheated on her ex so she starts writing people’s college essays for them. But the more
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
 I’m a huge fan of books written in verse, so I’m very drawn to them. The synopsis of this one had me immediately interested. I was thinking this would be a beautifully written coming of age story, which would just be light hearted and easy to read.
At first I was very annoyed with Nic, she was very self absorbed in my opinion, but as I thought this was more of a coming of age story. I loved the person Nic was slowly turning in to. I almost wondered why the author decided to tell Nic’s story in ...more
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“Or maybe I just wanted
to be wanted,
to be heard,
to be seen
by someone.

“When I write
essays, I write
about the emotionally raw
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 sometime it hurts

too much.”
More quotes…