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
Review of the other books in the series:
McCafferty, Megan. Charmed Thirds. Wednesday Books, 2021 (reprint). ISBN 978-1250781833 528 pp. $9.99
Although third in a series, this new novel contains many firsts for our New Jersey heroine and sarcastic queen of quips: first time making nice with her sister, first internship, first love (continued). We find our darling Jessica well into sophomore year at Columbia, sex starved and missing reformed bad boy Marcus, who has gone all Buddhist, becoming more unreadable than ever. The book takes us sporadically through Jessica’s college years, tracking major and heartrending experiences. Readers will cheer to see obligatory letters to Hope (doing well at RSID, thankyouverymuch), snide asides, and invented vocabulary that are quintessential McCafferty; new gems include Poetry Spam (haikus created from junk email), Google stalking, and continued worship for all things ‘80’s.
Too many allusions to past events will send new readers searching for other titles in the series.
This is a book to champion from the relative safety of the adult collection. After all it took for Jessica to finally hook up with Krispy Kreme, her ad nauseum raving about her newfound sexuality is healthy but occasionally delves into the TMI zone. As I recommended with the other two books in the series, plop it in adult fiction – the fans will find it.
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: