McCafferty, Megan. Second Helpings. Three Rivers Press/Crown Publishers, New York: 2021 (reprint). 368 pp.
Jessica Darling, Class Brainiac and Most Likely to Succeed, journals away her senior year from her attendance in a pre-college arts camp in July to her uncharacteristically optimistic graduation address in June. Her caustic commentary includes her superficial classmates, her horribleness as a first-time girlfriend, her agonizing over her virginity, her college decision, and her obsession with He Who Shall Remain Nameless. When she is suspected of authoring a slanderous e-zine that pops up in a select group of inboxes, she wishes she’d come up with something so clever since quitting the school newspaper. As in Sloppy Firsts (Crown, 2001), monthly letters to Hope, the best friend that moved away, are interspersed as reflective summaries.
Set in 2001, September 11 inevitably flavors some of the book, but this is not a “September 11th book.” Carefully selected pop culture references are meaningful, especially since 80’s kitsch is in vogue again.
Second Helpings delivers just as many snort-out-loud moments as the prequel. Jessica is a more fully realized character who believably matures, and the reader is presented with another side of Marcus, the poet nonconformist every girl would love to sin with. McCafferty takes many pages to provide her readers with what we wanted from the first book, but the wait is well worth it.
Jessica’s one-time experimentation with ecstasy and self-admitted crude language may concern staid librarians or clueless parents; hide in the adult section if you must, the right readers will find–and appreciate–this gem.
Review of the other books in the series: