Well...I'm trying something new again this week! I've seen a lot of bloggers do a series review, so I decided to give one a try. Since you all know how "good" I am at writing short reviews, I thought I'd split up this series, which takes place over a ten-year span, into multiple sections of Jessica Darling's life. I hope you enjoy it, despite its length, and don't worry - there are no spoilers for the first novel in my review of the second book, hence the reason it's much shorter. I'd love to know what you think of this series review as I am planning on doing one for the Lux Series so far as well (Obsidian and Onyx), so do leave me some feedback about how you find the formatting! Would you prefer if I just quoted the summary from GoodReads, like I did with my mini-reviews earlier this week? Let me know! :)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
If you haven’t heard of the Jessica Darling Series before then…well, you’ve been living under a rock, that’s what. If, however, you’re like me and have seen the gushing reviews for this all over the place and somehow never picked it up…well, don’t make the same mistake I did of waiting for months before reading this: pick it up now. Seriously, this series is just that good. It’s funny, it’s quirky, and it’s hilarious, but it is also deep, provocative, compelling, and is most certain to strike a cord within your heart.
When Hope, Jessica’s best friend moves away, Jessica is heart-broken. She must now suffer through sophomore year alone, stuck with a group of “friends” who she secretly despises, a mother who is more concerned about her lack of a boyfriend than anything else, a father who is constantly behind her back to train for track, a sister who is getting married in a matter of months, and bad-boy Marcus Flutie who is giving her an unusual amount of attention. It might just be sophomore year, but Jessica is stressed beyond belief and she must struggle to find who she is beneath all the layers of ‘fake’ she wears to please everyone else in her life.
Jessica Darling has quickly become one of my favorite protagonists of all time. I kid you not; Jessica is sensible, she is intelligent, she is sarcastic, she is quirky, she is funny without meaning to be, she is dramatic when she wants to be, she is observant, and she is so afraid to be herself that I just want to give her a hug. Jessica Darling is like every teenage girl in the world; she has her insecurities, her embarrassing moments, her random crushes on older guys, her difficulties with finding true friendships, her bad days, and the days when she just wants to get rid of her family altogether. I don’t think I’ve ever clicked with a protagonist so easily and I loved that about Jessica. I loved that she could understand me and I could understand her and more than a book-character-and-reader friendship, it felt more like a best-friend-friendship. Jessica’s narration is one that you cannot help but love and believe me, you won’t want her story to end or stop; you’ll just want to keep reading, even until the early hours of dawn.
While Sloppy Firsts is an utterly character-driven novel, steered by a protagonist I absolutely loved and who wasn’t afraid to point out and notice all the flaws in herself, what made me love this novel as much as I did were the issues it undertook. Admit it: High School was the worst four years of your life. It’s a jungle of people trying to fit in and 99% of the people you meet only care about themselves; so really, it’s just a brutal climb to the top of the social ladder or, if you attend my high school, the top of the ‘Highest GPA’ ladder. So, while many novels tackle on the hidden truths behind real high schools, I feel as if McCafferty does it the best. She does it in a way that is funny, but also drives her point across. She uses Jessica not only as a character that is easy to understand, but one that is easy to look up to, admire, take inspiration from and learn from as well, which I love. Sloppy Firsts is not only the type of book you finish wanting to read it again (or pick up the sequel because of its cliffhanger ending), but it is also the type of book you finish feeling wiser about the world in general and I love that. It isn’t just another chick-flick-high-school-drama – it has a purpose and it fulfills that purpose beautifully.
Nevertheless, the best part about Sloppy Firsts is the fact that the two most influential people in Jessica’s life, Hope and Marcus, are conspicuously absent for most of it. Hope is literally in a different state, but Marcus (who is so sweet and smart and funny and ohmygosh swoooon) only makes an appearance during the second-half of this novel. I loved this, simply because it left so much more room for Jessica to grow and learn by herself. Furthermore, sometimes, the best people in our lives aren’t and simply can’t always be with us, which I found so realistic. Even your crush, who you think is always with you, is really only in your brain 99% of the time. Seriously, think back to all your crushes – how many times did you really interact? While Marcus and Jessica interact quite a bit in the second-half of this story, they have their distances too which I appreciated. I loved how their romance was a slow build-up of the sexual tension between them, a deeper understanding of their personality, and the ability to make a marked impact on each others lives. In other words, it totally sucked me in and I’m flying high off the
drug character that is Marcus Flutie.
In summary, Sloppy Firsts is a must-read. It’s a novel that you will instantly connect with, instantly love, and will constantly re-read. It’s funny while tackling serious issues, hilarious while representing a true form of high school and teenage life, and it has one of the best female heroines to grace Contemporary YA Fiction. Far from being sloppy, Sloppy Firsts is a riveting beginning to a series that is sure to become a favorite and will leave you anxiously waiting for more. (I do mean this in the literal sense because until you get your hands on Second Helpings, you will lose sleep over Marcus and Jessica. You don’t think characters can affect your life so deeply? Yeah, tell me that after you finish this novel!)
Title: Second Helpings (Jessica Darling, #2)
Author: Megan McCafferty
Rating: 4 Stars
I have to admit it: Sloppy Firsts was better. Yet, that doesn’t mean that Second Helpings wasn’t a brilliant follow-up novel, because it was! Jessica Darling is back and this time, she’s about to start her senior year of high school. Hope, her best friend, is still miles away from her, her mother still wants her to find a boyfriend, her sister is now expecting a baby, her relationship with her father continues to get worse, and to make matters worse, it’s time to apply for college. If that wasn’t enough on her plate, Jessica
wants to can’t think of Marcus Flutie…not after what happened before. Thus, Jessica’s last year of high school starts and if you thought Jessica had things figured out after Sloppy Firsts, think again!
So, why was Second Helpings not as good as Sloppy Firsts? It has the same quirky and hilarious narration, the same unforgettable characters, the same high school problems…so what changed? Well, I guess in one word, it would be…Jessica. I still love Jessica Darling to death and she seriously is my literary-soul-sister, but Jessica’s thoughts begin to change in this one. For one, she begins to think about sex way too much. Nope, she isn’t having sex, she’s just thinking about it on practically every other page, which is not only vastly unrealistic, but became rather annoying too. I felt as if some of the discussions she had about sex were even repeated from time-to-time and was rather confused about this new direction of thought. Furthermore, there was one rather predictable mystery in this story that Jessica took awhile to pick up on, so while it didn’t ruin the story in the least, it was a little disappointing to see such an intelligent character fail to see something this obvious.
Nevertheless, those petty qualms aside, I devoured Second Helpings in a matter of hours. Jessica is still struggling between being who she is and fitting in at high school – a conflict I found equally as compelling in this sequel. I really liked that despite her growth, Jessica still had so much more to learn, not only in school, but from her family at home too. McCafferty shows us this so perfectly that we can’t help but love Jessica, even for all her flaws and mistakes in this book.
Marcus Flutie (*cue swoons*) also plays a larger role in this novel, but perhaps not as large as some readers would have liked. Yet, I loved this aspect of the book. Once again, the most influential people in Jessica’s life are absent, so whenever Marcus did make an appearance in this book, it was like a wonderful treat. I’ve never been a big fan of sexual tension or cheesiness, but I ate up the sexual tension in this one and grinned like an idiot at the eventual cheesiness at the end of this. I know, I know, Marcus Flutie has made me into a pile of gush, but I can’t even bring myself to care. I love the guy and even more than that, I love how McCafferty makes you see just how right these two are for each other.
Second Helpings has so much going on in it, but it’s a wonderful follow-up to Sloppy Firsts. It also has a conclusion that wraps everything up beautifully and leaves the reader utterly satisfied, so it will definitely be awhile before I pick up the next Jessica Darling book, Charmed Thirds. Still, I know that when I do read it, it’ll be like meeting an old friend all over again. McCafferty’s book are absolutely wonderful and I think part of the reason why I love them so much is because my best friend and I attend different schools as well, yet, she is still the most influential person in my life and I can connect with and understand Jessica on a deeper level because of it. Don’t worry though – Jessica has a little bit of everyone in her and there is no way you cannot fall in love with this series. Marcus Flutie will ensure that, even if Jessica doesn’t! ;) I really can’t recommend these books enough as they are absolutely hilarious and wonderfully quick reads at the same time, so I know this is one series I will constantly re-visit, even as I grow old. Yup, it’s just that good.