Second Helpings

Second Helpings by Megan McCaffertySecond Helpings by Megan McCafferty
(Jessica Darling # 2)
Three Rivers Press, 368 pages

Jessica Darling is up in arms again in this much-anticipated, hilarious sequel to Sloppy Firsts. This time, the hyperobservant, angst-ridden teenager is going through the social and emotional ordeal of her senior year at Pineville High. Not only does the mysterious and oh-so-compelling Marcus Flutie continue to distract Jessica, but her best friend, Hope, still lives in another state, and she can’t seem to escape the clutches of the Clueless Crew, her annoying so-called friends. To top it off, Jessica’s parents won’t get off her butt about choosing a college, and her sister Bethany’s pregnancy is causing a big stir in the Darling household.

With keen intelligence, sardonic wit, and ingenious comedic timing, Megan McCafferty again re-creates the tumultuous world of today’s fast-moving and sophisticated teens. Fans of Sloppy Firsts will be reunited with their favorite characters and also introduced to the fresh new faces that have entered Jess’s life, including the hot creative writing teacher at her summer college prep program and her feisty, tell-it-like-it-is grandmother Gladdie. But most of all, readers will finally have the answers to all of their burgeoning questions, and then some: Will Jessica crack under the pressure of senioritis? Will her unresolved feelings for Marcus wreak havoc on her love life? Will Hope ever come back to Pineville? Fall in love with saucy, irreverent Jessica all over again in this wonderful sequel to a book that critics and readers alike hailed as the best high school novel in years.

When I reread Sloppy Firsts a few months ago, I was surprised at how much I didn’t really like it. I call it a case of growing up and getting over the teenage angst that I probably never had. I enjoyed Jessica’s wit, but I wasn’t a fan of her angst anymore now that I (sort of) know better. That’s why I took my time rereading the next book in the series, Second Helpings. I loved this book back in college — it was one that I remember rereading more than twice and loving it just as much as I used to the first time. I was kind of afraid that I wouldn’t find this one as entertaining as it used to.

Spoiler warning for the first book up ahead! Second Helpings starts shortly after the first book ended, where we find Jessica is back, but not exactly better than ever. Recovering from the events in the first book, Jessica is determined to make some changes in her life, starting with removing all traces of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named aka Marcus Flutie from her life. This is obviously harder than it looks once she starts school, and it’s not the only thing Jessica has to deal with. There’s college, the Clueless Crew (2/3 of it, anyway), the release of poseur Hyacinth Anastasia Wallace’s book based on Pineville, family antics including her wacky grandmother, who also just happens to be friends with Marcus Flutie. I think if Jessica could have bumped her head on her desk repeatedly, she would’ve done so. What’s a girl like her to do?

Like I said, I was kind of scared that Second Helpings would lose its magic on me after a reread now that I kind of know better, but I’m very glad to say that it didn’t. I liked this book as much as I did the first time. Jessica loses some of her angst here, and I found her more engaging this time. Maybe it’s because she’s decided to open up slightly, make choices for herself rather than let other people make choices for her. I found myself laughing a little more here, cheering on Jessica as she steps outside of the box she had created for herself before. It was almost like I was watching someone I know grow out of her shell, you know? :)

But the best part of Second Helpings — and I think most readers would agree! — is He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Marcus Flutie. Oh wow, wow. I remember developing a huge fictional crush on him right after I finished reading this! Marcus Flutie is not the perfect guy that every girl would want, but he sure knows how to make a girl want him. Hee. He was coy and clever and a player in Sloppy Firsts but he was different in the sequel. Oh, he was still coy at times, and his jokes can definitely make a girl blush, but he knows how to get into a girl’s heart, especially Jessica’s. The prom scene was swoon-worthy, and I can’t believe I actually forgot the YOU. YES. YOU. scene. I’m not really a fan of sex outside of marriage, but the build up in this novel was just…sigh. I will echo the question I and a handful of other friends who’ve read this book have asked back then: Where is my Marcus Flutie?!

So yeah, I liked Second Helpings a lot on the second read. :) Really liked it a lot. Now I can finally move on and read Charmed Thirds. Yay!

Rating: [rating=4]

2011 Challenge Status:
8 of 20 for TwentyEleven Challenge (Back in the Day)

My copy: ebook from Complete Jessica Darling set from Amazon Kindle store

Cover & blurb: Goodreads

Other Reviews:

Sloppy Firsts

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCaffertySloppy 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? :)

Rating: [rating=3]

2011 Challenge Status:
6 of 20 for TwentyEleven Challenge (Back in the Day)

Other Reviews:
Good Books and Good Wine
Makeshift Bookmark
The Crooked Shelf
Attack of the Book