McCafferty, Megan. Sloppy Firsts. Wednesday Books, 2021 (reprint). ISBN 978-1250781796. 416pp. $9.99
When Jessica’s best friend Hope moves away, Jess pledges to write to her once a month, call once a week, and email or IM daily. Between diary entries and the monthly letter, readers get a glimpse into the life of a nonconformist teen as she struggles through the daily grind of the high school social and academic scenes. Additional stress is brought on by the impending marriage of her too-perfect sister; Jess is a bridesmaid, and the family is pressuring her to get a date for the wedding. If only Hope were here to share this all.
This first novel delves into the territory of relationships, from simple best friend pacts to complex family interactions in a house where the death of the only son is never mentioned. Jessica staves off the boy next door (who is never so attractive as when he finally becomes a stud and starts dating other girls) and engages in a cat and mouse game with the school’s biggest druggie, Marcus .
McCafferty doesn’t pull any punches and liberally sprinkles the f-word throughout her novel to season it as she describes a crushes from a nerds a cute drunken wedding guest, and speculations about sex. Ultimately, she exposes the hurt kids do to themselves and to one another, and showcases their resilience alongside their destruction.
McCafferty has written an achingly honest portrayal of what it is like to be a teen. Readers will shudder with their own memories as McCafferty brings is all back to them: having to ask permission to pee, feeling disgusted with the administration, and believing you can change the world.
While the language and situations aren’t anything today’s high school students are not already hearing and seeing in the hallways, more conservative libraries may shelve this one in the adult area, but the appealing cover will guarantee that this story gets into the hands of the right readers.
Review by Beth Gallaway