Author: Megan McCafferty [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: Book one in the Jessica Darling quintet.
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Published: August 28th, 2001 by Crown Publishing Group
Format: Kindle edition; 304 pages.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
“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.”So I’m just going to lay it out there. I have never been so sexually frustrated at the end of a book. Ever. Now maybe that’s a bit spoilery, but I don’t think it’s so bad considering this is a five book series and we know these things get drug out in a five book series. But I’ve never read a contemporary series before; in the world of cliffhangers, Sloppy Firsts is far from the worst, but it was enough to make me die inside just a little and keep me up all night worrying about what’s going to happen to my new BFF Jessica. Which brings me to my basic conclusion about Sloppy Firsts--I freaking loved it.
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?
A fresh, funny, utterly compelling fiction debut by first-time novelist Megan McCafferty, Sloppy Firsts is an insightful, true-to-life look at Jessica’s predicament as she embarks on another year of teenage torment—from the dark days of Hope’s departure through her months as a type-A personality turned insomniac to her completely mixed-up feelings about Marcus Flutie, the intelligent and mysterious “Dreg” who works his way into her heart. Like a John Hughes for the twenty-first century, Megan McCafferty taps into the inherent humor and drama of the teen experience. This poignant, hilarious novel is sure to appeal to readers who are still going through it, as well as those who are grateful that they don’t have to go back and grow up all over again.
Now, I pretty much never read contemporary before this year. Sure, maybe, if a book was renowned enough or I was required by some form of schooling, but I never really got into the genre. I’m totally a fantasy girl, and spent the bulk of my library time growing up on the floor of that one aisle at my library combing through the Sci-Fi/Fantasy collection and ignoring all other forms of literature. And I’m cool with that. But just this once, I found myself wishing with every fiber of my being that I had read Sloppy Firsts as soon as it came out. Not only can it easily be crowned my favorite contemporary YA ever, I just know this book would have spoken to teenage me like a lifeline of sanity (or mutual morbidity).
Dude, Jessica Darling is my homegirl. And I would totally print that on a shirt and wear it. Yeah she has her annoying quirks, like getting all giggly when she’s awkward or embarrassed, but for the most part she’s probably the fictional character I could most see myself being friends with in high school. We both really hate weddings and just want to elope, we both didn’t bother buying yearbooks, we’re both phone phobic, goody-goody ‘smart’ kids, and we’re both pretty hyper aware of our own ridiculousness. That doesn’t stop us from stressing to the point of physically harming our own bodies, being dramatic about our problems, and searching for pretty much any purchase in our home towns. I love that Jessica is holding out for a guy who can be her best friend, that she so dutifully keeps up correspondence with Hope, and that she writes us her story in her journal. Technically, that makes Sloppy Firsts an epistolary novel. I like that, and felt that the journal entries were believable, but at the same time, it read more like a strait up novel to me than you often get with the epistolary format.
I got such a strong feel for all of the characters in this book. Jessica struggles with relating to her parents, caring at all about her friends (whom she hates), dealing with her mad crush on senior who doesn’t know she exists, and a period that’s completely M.I.A. Of course my favorite character besides Jessica would have to be (you guessed it) Marcus Flutie. I loved Marcus, because even though I’d seen people mention him before I read this book, he was so completely not what I expected. In fact, more than anything, he reminds me of my own best guy friend from high school, right down to his woodsy-smoky smell, and I honest to God had ‘why was I just platonic with that guy again?’ thoughts. Because, dear friends, Marcus Flutie is awesome. Okay, he’s pretty weird and kind of a dick at times, but he’s also unexpected, quixotic, and pretty perfect for Jessica even if the world doesn’t see it.
One of my favorite things about Sloppy Firsts was that the two most important and influential characters in Jessica’s life, Hope and Marcus, were more or less absent for the bulk of it. In fact, Hope is physically nonexistence, and Jessica has a weird curiosity about Marcus that begins to border on an obsession she just can’t drop, so while he’s mentioned often, he’s not very frequent appearance-wise. I found myself positively pining for more contact with this enigma of a character, while simultaneously loving how drawn out the relationship was. Sloppy Firsts was, to me, an entirely realistic representation of life in high school, and I loved every agonizing second of it.
Likelihood that I'll be back for more: Okay, let me tell you, if I had had Second Helpings on hand, or if I hadn’t had to put myself on a wait list for the Kindle edition from Overdrive, I would have started it immediately. And it was 2:00 am. And I had to work in the morning. I call that a sure thing.
Recommended for: Absolutely anyone and everyone who enjoys contemporary YA. I have to thank Forever YA for picking this as the March book club pick, or I never would have read it.
Real life repercussions of reading this book: I have totally and irrevocably changed my opinion of contemporary YA. It’s not that I haven't enjoyed contemporary since I’ve been pushing myself to read more this year, but this is the first time I’ve ever been completely riveted and dying for more.
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