Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
Jessica Darling #1
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Number of pages: 280
My copy: ebook from Complete Jessica Darling set from Amazon Kindle store
“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?
* * *
I first discovered Jessica Darling through my friends in college. I was looking for a new book to get when a cheerful lime cover caught my eye. I knew my friends liked this a lot, considering this as one of their favorites, so I was fairly confident that I would like it too. And I was right — I did. I remember re-reading this a lot because I didn’t have a copy of Second Helpings yet, and I wanted to keep a journal the way Jessica Darling did.
I lost my copy of Sloppy Firsts in the flood that Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) brought in our country in 2009. It was disappointing, since I also never got to read any of the books beyond Second Helpings. I was planning to get the ebooks one of these days, and it wasn’t until Valentine’s Day that I saw that the entire Jessica Darling set was only $9.99 on Kindle. Amazing deal, right? I can’t not have it.
Jessica Darling is miserable. Her best friend, Hope, moved to Tennessee a few weeks before her 16th birthday, and she has never felt more alone in her life than ever. She hates her so-called friends, the Clueless Crew (who all has the personality of a floor stand). She couldn’t get along with her mother and her soon-to-be-married sister, and she couldn’t talk to her dad about anything other than running. Feeling extremely misunderstood, she sticks to writing in her journal about the people around her and the ever increasing confusion she feels for “Dreg” Marcus Flutie, who is slowly working his way into her heart.
Ah, Jessica Darling. She is your not-so-typical hyper observant smart, slightly anti-social and angsty sixteen year old. It’s been a long time since I last read her, but her voice is still familiar, almost like we were never separated. A few pages into the book and I was already laughing and shaking my head at all of her snark. This is the mother of all journal-form novels. Jessica’s voice is clear and her wit shines through even in her most emotional moments. And it’s not that the secondary characters aren’t as witty or exceptional as Jess because they are — from barbie-like ex-best friend Bridget to gossip-monger Sara and even Jessica’s best friend, Hope, had a strong presence in the novel even if we never hear her side of the correspondences. And of course, Marcus. Marcus Flutie. I had a hard time remembering what he looked like and how they got to know each other here, but once the said event has happened, their interactions where unstoppable. Talk about sizzle.
But if I may be perfectly honest this time, I found that I didn’t really love Sloppy First this time around. Oh, I loved it during the first few reads, and I still like it now, but I found that I couldn’t really take all of Jessica’s angst. I like her, and I like that she grows in the novel, but there were so many times that I wanted to shake her and tell her to get a grip, lighten up. It’s not the end of the world. It only feels like it’s the end of the world, but there’s more to life after that. High school is just a small part of your life, don’t fret over it too much! There was a little too much angst in Jessica that I realize that if I was in her class right now, I wouldn’t want to be friends with her, especially if there’s such a cloud of gloom over her all the time. I’m not saying that I am better than her when I was in the same age nor am I belittling her situation — I know I had the same amount (maybe even more) angst then — but now that I know that all high school worries will pass, I wished I could tell her that so she can lighten up.
I think my reading experience of Sloppy Firsts is the perfect example of how we won’t always love the books that we loved when we were younger, and how our age and experiences and environment influence how we see a book. I still think Sloppy Firsts is a good book and I like the book very much, but I also think that I’ve outgrown Jessica’s angst.
But you know what, I think this just makes me more excited to read the rest of the books. Jessica can’t stay that angsty forever, right? :)