Thursday, May 30, 2013

Review: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

Sloppy Firsts (Jessica Darling #1) by Megan McCafferty
Release Date: 2001
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Source: Library 
“My parents suck ass. Banning me from the phone and restricting my computer privileges are the most tyrannical parental gestures I can think of. Don’t they realize that Hope’s the only one who keeps me sane? ... I don’t see how things could get any worse.”

When her best friend, Hope Weaver, moves away from Pineville, New Jersey, hyperobservant sixteen-year-old Jessica Darling is devastated. A fish out of water at school and a stranger at home, Jessica feels more lost than ever now that the only person with whom she could really communicate has gone. How is she supposed to deal with the boy- and shopping-crazy girls at school, her dad’s obsession with her track meets, her mother salivating over big sister Bethany’s lavish wedding, and her nonexistent love life?

A fresh, funny, utterly compelling fiction debut by first-time novelist Megan McCafferty, Sloppy Firsts is an insightful, true-to-life look at Jessica’s predicament as she embarks on another year of teenage torment—from the dark days of Hope’s departure through her months as a type-A personality turned insomniac to her completely mixed-up feelings about Marcus Flutie, the intelligent and mysterious “Dreg” who works his way into her heart. Like a John Hughes for the twenty-first century, Megan McCafferty taps into the inherent humor and drama of the teen experience. This poignant, hilarious novel is sure to appeal to readers who are still going through it, as well as those who are grateful that they don’t have to go back and grow up all over again.
You know when you read a really, really good book that’s been out for a while and after reading it you think, “gosh, why didn’t I read this book sooner?” Sloppy Firsts should have been that book for me but it wasn’t. I actually attempted to read this book in the 8th grade and got about 10 pages in before I quit it. Reading it this year, as a senior in high school, I loved and appreciated Sloppy Firsts so much more than in the 8th grade. Jessica Darling and I are really similar and I connected with her immensely and I know it’s because I’m more mature now and I’ve gone through four years of high school by now!  

There isn’t anything I can say about Jessica Darling that hasn’t been said before. She’s snarky and funny and weird and she sees what she wants to. Sloppy Firsts and all of the other books are truly Jessica’s thoughts. I’ve read books in journal format where the writing is so formulaic but not with this book. I think that’s why so many people can connect with Jessica. She’s such a normal person that I often found myself wondering “is this me?”: she can be judgmental and mean but she can be strong and supportive, sad and insecure too. I loved reading about the ups and downs of life in this book: the rocky relationships with family and friends and relationships with boys and just about everything else.

I also loved that Jessica knew her faults and wanted to do better but admitted to making mistakes. Jessica would do something stupid or mean and admitting to them wasn’t always easy but some how, Jessica did. No matter how intelligent Jessica truly is, she could make dumb mistakes too. I utterly loved the perfectly imperfect Jessica! I especially liked Jessica’s rocky relationship with her older sister. I have an older sister (she’s 6 years older) so I knew Jessica’s frustration. As I’ve read the entire series already, I loved seeing their relationship develop and grow, which I found similar to my relationship with my sister (we don’t fight as much as we used to!)

I also want to take a moment to mention the high school life mentioned in this book. Often times, authors try to make high school in their books as accurate as possible but Megan McCafferty did an absolutely amazing job depicting the reality of high school. High school sucks sometimes (okay, most of the time) and it’s really about no one knowing how they are. They’re stuck between the child and adult phase and the basic question is, “who am I?” There were the mean girls and the jocks and the potheads of so many schools but they weren’t presented in a stereotypical way. Honestly, it was all very believable.

Having already read the entire series already, I want to take a moment to talk about Hope and Marcus because I was honestly surprised at what a big role both of them played in Jessica’s life. Hope, Jessica’s best friend has moved away and Jessica is not happy. Surprisingly, Hope is absent for pretty much the entirety of Sloppy Firsts yet her influence as Jessica’s best friend is incredibly strong. The relationship both Jessica and Hope share is one of real friendships: best friends aren’t always happy with one another but in the end, they love each other no matter what. Marcus, who I never called Marcus while I was reading this entire book (and I ignored than he has dreadlocks), was utterly fantastic and so swoonworhty. Like all of Megan McCaffery’s characters, Marcus was just as flawed as you’d expect and then some. But he was just what Jessica needed and just what she didn’t need and if you’ve read the book, I think it makes more sense to you.

Overall, I’m a fan girl now. I get what everyone is raving about this series. I’ll be buying all five books in the future and I’ll be re-reading for years to come. Sloppy Firsts is a book I’d recommend to anyone and everyone but I know some of you will not like it. There were things about Sloppy Firsts I wasn’t sure about but after reading it, I’ve come to appreciate the true gem the Jessica Darling series truly is.
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