Friday, April 13, 2012
Author: Megan McCafferty
Series: Jessica Darling #1
Genre: YA, contemporary
Publisher: Broadway, 2001
Read for: FYA Book club
Jessica "Notso" Darling's best friend, Hope, has moved away, and now Jess is stuck with her shallow, annoying clique of pseudo-friends, the unwanted affections of her friend Scotty, the comparisons of her mother to her apparently perfect older sister, insomnia, and the frustrating fact that despite the fact that she's a virgin, she hasn't had her period in months. Things get even weirder when the school bad boy, Marcus Flutie, decides to start speaking to her.
So I liked this book, and I didn't like this book. There was a lot of good here, but also a lot that bothered me. Let's start with the bothering to end in a happy place.
I think the number one thing that got to me was the fact that I hear so much about Marcus Flutie being the best thing to ever happen in print, and the truth was that in this book at least, he was a bit of a loser. Charming, yes, intelligent, yes. Heavily into drugs and casual sex, also yes. That does not equal dream boy to me, and I wouldn't think it would to most girls. Granted, he changes some in this book, and there are four more in the series. I guess I was just expecting something different from all of the hype, and the reality let me down. Which leads into the other thing that bothers me. I know that this is a biased opinion of mine, so don't all y'all jump down my throat. I know it's a personal preference. However, I was bothered by the amount of foul language and talk of the dirty goings on in high school. I know that McCafferty's intent was to portray high school realistically, and I'm sure that a lot of people in high school do experience that level of language and "dirty talk." (I didn't). But while it may be accurate, I felt uncomfortable by it. So be aware that if you are also made uncomfortable by such things, Sloppy Firsts probably isn't the book for you.
However, with that said, there were a lot of amazing things about this book (enough that I am going to try the second book in the series). While the sexuality and language were not true to my high school experience, Jessica was. She was snarky and the things that frustrated and confused her, the philosophical tangents she went on both alone and with Marcus, rang true. She felt authentic, as if she was coming from a completely true place. Things weren't neat and tidy. The ending certainly isn't (which is of course why I am going to have to read the next book). She's caught in the middle with her group of friends. Her friend soulmate, Hope, is out of the picture except for emails and occasional phone calls, and her other friends are flakes and fakes. Jess has to learn how to cope with her situation and realize that while she may not get Hope back, there are some decent alternatives. She is also caught in the middle of the awkwardness that comes with relationships -- do you date the guy to have status and to have someone to do things with, or do you wait for something you are actually interested in? And are there any guys that aren't dirtbags in high school, anyway? And then there is her family, which isn't out of control dysfunctional, but which is difficult to deal with in that way when you are a teenager and want some autonomy and just can't seem to break free.
That kind of turned into a rant. My point is -- it's legit. It's complex. And Jessica Darling is awesome. The only problem is there is some smut to wade through to get to it. I hear it gets a bit better in the later books, so I'm giving Second Helpings a chance.
Warnings: Language (smatterings of F-bombs), descriptions of things that high school kids do (but off the page)