Saturday, December 24, 2011

CR Reviews #47 - 50: Second Helpings, Charmed Thirds, Fourth Comings and Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of reading Sloppy Firsts , the first of five books about Jessica Darling. I really enjoyed her humor and sarcasm, and her true-to-life friends and other acquaintances. I liked the doubt that Jessica had about herself, and the realistic high school scenarios painted by McCafferty. I immediately emailed my library and put the other four books on hold.

I just finished reading the remaining books (all in a row), and while none of them were as good as the first, and some were better than others, I'm glad that I stuck with it to find out what happens to Jessica (and, to a lesser extent, to Marcus and the rest of the characters).

Quick overviews, and of course, lots and lots of spoilers:

Second Helpings takes place in Jessica's senior year of high school. She's still pining for Marcus Flutie, but he doesn't seem to be reciprocating, so Jessica dates his best friend, Len. Handsome and smart, Len should be everything Jessica is looking for in a boyfriend, but he just isn't as interesting as Marcus, and he simply can't compare. After a while, Len tires of being "second best" and dumps Jessica (on Valentines Day, no less), leaving Jessica to wallow in her Marcus misery. However, all is righted when on prom night Marcus proves his love for Jessica, leaving us to hope that they live happily ever after. Other tidbits: Best friend Hope is still living in TN, neighbor Bridget is now dating Jessica's french buddy Percy, Jessica is led to apply to Columbia by her former crush Paul, and both Jessica and Marcus spend time with her grandmother Gladdie.

Charmed Thirds begins halfway through Jessica's freshman year at Columbia. Struggling to keep a long-distance relationship with Marcus going while she is in NYC and he is in CA (attending a buddhist college of some sort), Jessica begins to doubt whether she and Marcus should be together. They eventually break up (or do they? she doesn't really know) and she begins to date classmate Kieran (when she should definitely know better). Jessica graduates a semester early, and when she is about to embark on a road trip with best friend Hope, Marcus pops back into her life, ready to start over.

In Fourth Comings, Jessica and Hope are living in Brooklyn while Marcus is about to start his freshman year at Princeton. Jessica doesn't want to be the girlfriend of a college freshman and decides to break up with him, but Marcus thinks that instead of breaking up they should get married. He gives her a week to think about it, and in that week she writes and writes about their lives and relationships, trying to make the right decision for their future. My least favorite of the books, as the insecurities and doubts that Jessica has that once made her seem so charming now make her seem selfish and a bit annoying.

Lastly, in Perfect Fifths, Jessica and Marcus randomly run into each other after years apart. They spend 24 hours together and talk about what happened between them and how things went wrong. Almost written entirely in dialogue, I enjoyed this one for the most part, but did miss the interactions with the supporting characters. However, the introduction of supporting character Mr Barry Manilow almost made up for the lack of others in this one. Nicely tied up all the loose ends for most of the characters in the five books and once again made the characters likeable for me.

In short: while these four books don't live up to the standards of the first, the second and fifth almost make up for the weaknesses of the third and fourth. Definitely worth reading if you like your main characters filled with snark (although, sometimes too much snark) and you like Barry Manilow and 80s references.

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