Sloppy Firsts (Jessica Darling #1)
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.
Refreshingly Honest Portrait of High School Life
When I was a teen a did very little reading of books from the teen section, which I now inhabit on a regular basis, because I like to do the unexpected. Anyway, one of the exceptions I made was Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty, which I remember totally loving. Also, I remember being disappointed by the sequel (or sequels, as I really do not remember how far I read). Having reread this, I commend my younger self for liking this one, but I am unsurprised that my love was short-lived, because I liked happy, escapist reads and this is not that.
Oddly, I do not remember this book having a profound impact on my teen self, which is ridiculous, because Jessica Darling is a heroine I relate to even now, in my dotage. She's intelligent, way more studious than I ever was. She uses her intelligence to be a smart-Alec and to over-think everything (hey, soul sister!). I love the way she thinks about everything, because the way she delves into minor details and thinks herself into an endless cycle of worry is completely identifiable. Her constant mental whirlwind reminds me a lot of the Ruby Oliver books by E. Lockhart, though those are a bit on the lighter side tone-wise.
The writing is pitch perfect, capturing the personality of Jessica Darling. Her mental landscape is a very familiar place, and it's frankly terrifying how much I still identify with so far as her insecurities go. Those easily offended by swearing or the use of terms like 'ho' or 'hoochie' will probably be offended by a lot of what Jessica writes in her journal, but McCafferty's not making a statement with those things. This is how a lot of teens talk and think, and she uses these words not to be shocking but to be real. I love watching Jessica evolve throughout, working through things and changing opinions she previously held based on new information.
As with many contemporary teen novels, Sloppy Firsts focuses on popularity and friendship in high school. Jessica's best friend, Hope, has moved away, leaving her to navigate the social minefield of high school alone. Now, Jessica's actually in a pretty popular crowd, but she does not feel any less alone, because, really, she hates their guts. If she left she would have no one, and she's not brave enough for that (and, honey, let me tell you, not having friends is worse). Where most stories would be about embracing your true self and finding perfect happiness as a result, a group of kindred spirits appearing to embrace you, Sloppy Firsts isn't. The themes of being true to yourself are, but sometimes your kindred spirit moved away or just doesn't exist, and it's sad but true. However, she does find that maybe things aren't so bad as she thought they were, too, in that she can be more connected, even if the people here aren't Hope.
Romantic relationships and sex are also a huge part of the novel. Most of Jessica's 'friends' are very sexually active, whether they've done the deed or not. Jessica has had just one (really gross) kiss. Teen sex lives are very openly discussed, and I love McCafferty's frank attitude towards this topic. I'm especially impressed since the book came out in 2000, not in the more permissive current YA landscape. Way to go, McCafferty.
The Darling parents receive quite a bit of focus as well. They are present parents, but highly flawed ones. Due to the death of her brother from SIDS before her birth, they're both emotionally damaged. Her mother spends all of her energy planning Bethany's (Jess' much older sister) wedding. Jess' father only cares about her as an athlete, raising her like the son he didn't get to keep. Jessica struggles with her parents' treatment of her, feeling inferior both to the living and departed sibling. Their familial relationships ache with honesty and miscommunication, as well as naturally disparate personalities.
Marcus Flutie. If you mention this book to anyone who's read it, their first response will invariably be something like this, "MARCUS FLUTIE!!!! WAZZAHHHHH!" Now, I remembered Marcus Flutie vaguely. Basically, I recalled that he eventually becomes the love interest, but that's about it. Imagine my surprise when he's a drug-doing guy with dreads. That threw some serious cold water on my memory. If the book has any weakness at all (a point I'm undecided on, so I'm going for the full rating because this book is really good), it's how quickly Jessica becomes obsessed with Marcus when he's Krispy Kreme, when there's no way I could crush on a guy like that. However, I am not Jessica, and she lives her life in fantasies, so, on a lot of levels, that really makes sense. He pays attention to her, even an irritating non-flattering sort of attention, when she feels incredibly alone. Thankfully, Marcus does evolve as a character, because he's super icky at first. I'm not fully sold on him yet, but I am desperate to find out what happens next because that ending was mean.
What Left Me Wanting More:
More Jessica Darling? I am all for that. Thank goodness there are four more books and a prequel series in my future.
The Final Verdict:
You've probably heard of the Jessica Darling books by now, but, if you haven't, I highly recommend giving them a try. Sloppy Firsts is daring, funny, sad, thought-provoking, and unflinchingly honest. If you enjoy E. Lockhart's Ruby Oliver books, you most definitely need to read Megan McCafferty.
A promising start
At 16, Jessica feels like her parents don’t even know her, hates her friends, feels like a “loser”, and makes up for her feelings of inadequacy by judging (especially slut-shaming) everyone she comes into contact with. Jessica is not a perfect person, and though she doesn’t make monumental mistakes, she doesn’t always act in the best way. Personally, I couldn’t really connect with Jessica, and I saw nothing of myself in her. I have a great relationship with my parents, I love my friends because they aren’t judgmental, I make a point of not calling other girls “sluts”, “ho-bags” or “wenches”. While obviously I make plenty of mistakes, they aren’t even slightly similar to the mistakes Jessica makes.
As a character-driven reader, that created a bit of a problem. I mean, I still liked this book and was looking forward to the sequels, but at the same time, I often had to wonder WHAT exactly Jessica was doing because our brains do not function in the same way. Not at all.
Sloppy Firsts (A Room with Books review)
I just finished Sloppy Firsts and all I can think is “helloooo! Since when is it okay for contemporary novels to end in a cliffhanger?! Not cool Miss McCafferty, not cool.” But of course, the sequel was published years ago (seriously, I can’t believe this one came out 12 years ago) so I don’t really have to wait that long to read it, but that doesn’t change the fact that I do not, actually, currently have it in my possession. And I’m dying here. Oh, wait, you actually wanted a review? Okay, I suppose.
Honestly, for a little over half of Sloppy Firsts I was afraid I was going to come out feeling look warm about it causing half the YA blogosphere to throw virtual rotten fruit and hit me on the head with giant virtual books. But I was wrong. Oh so happily, wonderfully wrong.
As a 19-almost-20-year-old (not that this makes me sage or worldly or anything) a lot of Jessica’s problems seemed pretty trivial and sometimes I found myself wanting to tell her to just suck it up. But another part of me was right there with her screaming the “parents suck and my friends don’t understand me” mantra loud and proud for everyone [in my head] to hear. Sure, I may not have been right there with her on everything she ever thought, but I could commiserate with a great deal.
And then there’s Marcus. Freaking. Flutie. Sure, I’ve heard all about this guy since starting my blog, but I’ve always thought to myself “he can’t be that great.” Once again, I’ve been proven oh so very wrong. He had me all in a tizzy sometimes with his tension building and ear whispering and overly enigma status. And I hear it gets better. I’m really not sure if I can handle better, though. In fact, I’m slightly afraid :P
The Nutshell: Sure, the pop-culture references and the slang are outdated, but Jessica’s teenage feelings aren’t. She’s having normal (for the most part) teenage problems that most girls out there can relate to which makes Sloppy Firsts stand the test of time. This is a book about dealing with your best friend moving away, boy problems (and lack thereof), not-so friendly friends, how relationships grow and change (from mother-daughter to best friend relationships), and so. Much. More. I could never possibly sum up how great this book is. Just please, please, give it a chance.
Sublime YA Lit ... or any lit, for that matter
You know how there are some books and some characters you just fall in love with immediately? And you want to re-read those books and stay connected to those characters as long as possible?
That is me with Megan McCafferty's Jessica Darling series. I'm not sure what I want more: to be Jessica Darling's best friend or Megan McCafferty's best friend. I think I'll settle for Megan McCafferty, because she's, you know, real.
We start with Sloppy Firsts, the first of the five-book series.
We meet sixteen-year-old Jessica Darling, the younger daughter of two parents who seem to continually disappoint her and us. Her mother, the only real caricature in the book, is obsessed with planning the wedding of Jessica's older sister, Bethany, to a guy called G-Money. Jessica, meanwhile, is forced to navigate her junior year of high school without her best friend, Hope, who has moved from Pineville, New Jersey, with her parents shortly after the death of Hope's older brother. Jessica soon becomes acquainted with Marcus Flutie, a friend of Hope's brother, and engages in a push and pull attraction to him. She likes him, she doesn't like him. She wants him, she is appalled by him. Marcus, you see, is Bad News, or at least he appears to be. He might or might not have engaged in some chemical extracurricular activities with Hope's brother, which might or might not have played a part in the brother's death, which might or might not cause some awkwardness with Hope.
Told in a journal form, Sloppy Firsts takes us along for Jessica's voyage from "lost without my best friend" to "oh, wow, I might have friends after all." She desperately wants to maintain her 99.66 GPA, form a relationship with Paul Parlipiano, and reclaim her period, which has gone MIA. And she wants Hope back, because Hope, Jessica believes, is the only person who understands her.
Then there is Marcus Flutie.
Oh, people. I think we all probably knew a Marcus Flutie in our time, and here we are confronted with him again. Marcus, aka Krispy Kreme, is every parent's worst nightmare, which makes him catnip for high school girls. Jessica crosses paths with him in the school office, and the two begin a relationship of sorts. Jessica is drawn to Marcus, but she can't figure out why. She wants Paul Parlipiano; she has wanted Paul Parlipiano for years. So why does she want Marcus Flutie so much? Why does she agree to help him fake a drug test? It's one thing for him to be everything Jessica isn't, but it's another thing entirely for him to hold any fault whatsoever in Hope's brother's overdose.
"I was feeling so optimistic that I made a vow to myself then and there: I will be normal. I will accept that Hope is gone. I will not be afraid of being friends with Hy. I will face up to the fact that Paul Parlipiano will not devirginize me. I will stop thinking that Marcus Flutie is trying to corrupt me. I will be normal."
This book is so good. As a high school teacher, I can tell you that it is as realistic a depiction of high school life as you're going to find. Kids struggle to fit in, and Jessica sure does once Hope leaves. They also struggle with their virginity and what it means to be a virgin today. They want to be successful and go to their college of choice, and they want their parents to appreciate them. As much as Jessica's mother drives her nuts, she does want a relationship with her. Her father's affectionate nickname for her, "Notso" (as in "Not so Darling") is sweet and dorky, as most fathers are.
Jessica herself is as flawed as they come, which is why I love her so much. She makes mistakes. Oy, does she make mistakes. There are times you will want to read this as you would watch a horror movie: your hands over your eyes, peeking between your fingers. I actually found myself occasionally saying out loud, "Oh, girl, no." But that's what makes her so real. Unlike for many YA heroines, nothing comes easily for Jessica Darling. She continually has to learn from her mistakes, and she continually screws up. You will cheer her on and want her to figure things out. You will want her to be happy.
If you want to take a trip down memory lane and revisit the high school experience, please read Sloppy Firsts. It is, quite simply, one of the best books I've ever read.
A Great Read
Reader reviewed by Kelly
After Jessica's best friend Hope Weaver moves away with her family, Jessica really has no one to turn to anymore.
" 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."
She's forced to deal with boy troubles, her family, and school all by herself, until dun dun dun she meets Marcus Flutie. Marcus is the bad boy in school, and always gets into trouble. Jessica is captivated by him, and thus their relationship begins. I love Jessica's sarcastic attitude about every little thing even her dad who is an obsessive track enthusiast, and forces her to run early every morning. Her dad calls her most unfortunate track experience the Jessica "not so" darling series(which is an ironic pun from her name Jessica Darling), and she wants nothing but to run away from it all. This book is about how she gets through her first year alone, oh and she's a chronic insomniac who loves cap'n crunch. What's not to love!
Megan Mccafferty has always held a special place in my heart. I've always loved the Jessica Darling series, and consider it to be what got me back into reading. I think why I like her so much is because she is so involved with her audience. She tours everywhere, she's on facebook, and twitter of course, and she even has a blog of some of her old journal entries as a child. I really like that about Authors, as it makes it easier I'd like to talk to them, about their books, and get updates.
This books is so much more then the typical love story boy meets girl. Their are so many twists and turns, that make you want more. The best part is that after you read this one there are 4 more books to read in the series!! Highly recommended to anyone looking for a heart warming but most of all hilarious story.
A Book I Can Relate To
Reader reviewed by Sara
deas expressed/message/plot: From cover: My parents suck ass. Banning me from the phone and restricting my computer privileges are the most tyrannical parental gestures I can think of. Dont they realize that Hopes the only one who keeps me sane? . . . I dont see how things could get any worse.
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 dads obsession with her track meets, her mother salivating over big sister Bethanys 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 Jessicas predicament as she embarks on another year of teenage torment--from the dark days of Hopes 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 dont have to go back and grow up all over again.
Favorite characters, quotes/lines: Jessica: she reminded me of myself in so many ways, except for the fact that she was much, much more entertaining!; Marcus: I loved the parts where he had little comments or interacted with Jess he seemed to be the only one who really riled her
When I finished this book I felt: I couldnt wait to start Second Helpings, the next Jessica Darling novel I really want to see what happens with Marcus and the other characters& this book was addicting!
Other books to read by this author: Second Helpings, Charmed Thirds, Fourth Comings, Perfect Fifths
I would recommend this book to: all teenage girls and their moms although there is some mature content
Two thumbs up!
Reader reviewed by Ann
Sloppy First was one of those books that I could not put down. I really liked this book because I could really relate to what Jessica Darling was feeling. And the little "thing" that Marcus and Jessica had, I absolutely LOVED that. I loved how they both knew that they had sparks flying whenever they were around each other but they simply left it to fall in place. The ending of this book was really good and Megan McCafferty has left me in such suspension that I think I am going to pass out. Sloppy First is a must-read!
Reader reviewed by lia
This books is very good. At first i dint want to read it but my friends liked it and inspired me to read it.
Its When her best friend, Hope Weaver, moves away from Pineville, New Jersey, hyper-observant 16-year-old Jessica Darling is devastated.
Jessica feels more lost than ever now that the only person with whom she could really communicate has gone.
So she is troubled because how she supposed to deal with the boy-and-shopping-crazy girls at school, her dads obsession with her track meets, her mother salivating over big sister Bethanys lavish wedding, and her nonexistent love life?
This book will make you fall in love with it and want to read the series which is very, very cool.
Different Sort of Teen Novel
Reader reviewed by ambeen
**spoiler alert** I started out expecting to really like this novel because so many of my friends did. I didn't. I was put off by Jessica's superior attitude, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt and the teenager excuse. I started really enjoying the novel once the Clueless Crew started leaving her out of things and she peed into the yogurt cup for Marcus Flutie. Then what felt like the big climax occurred: the break up of the Clueless Crew and Marcus acknowledging Jessica exists. I really felt like the novel would wind down and end after that. However, there was another 65 pages left. It was then all very anti-climatic and not what I was expecting. I still liked the novel though. And maybe I'll read the rest of the series someday. This rating should really be around a 3.5, because I don't think it deserves a 3 but not quite a 4 either.
Reader reviewed by Alexis
Jessica's best friend moves away after the o.d. death of her brother. Jessica is forced to deal with issues without someone who really knew her. Jessica's older sister was a girly girl and her mom tries to make Jessica one to replace her sister who is getting married. Jessica's dad makes Jess the son he had, but who died when he was young. Jess is overwhelmed with the track meets and her dad pushing her past her limits. Marcus is the reject of the school. He is considered a druggie. Jess gets to know him and breaks away from her clique after awhile when the truth comes out. I would reccommend this to anyone who likes gossip girl or a list series. amazing and quick read!!!
Very Well Written!
Reader reviewed by Holly
Oh, the woes of Jessica Darling. Her BFF has moved away and she can't stand anyone else. She is pressured by her dad to run. And, Marcus, the school jerk will not leave her alone. What's a girl to do??
This book is great! I loved it. And the emotions that Jessica feels are so raw and real. This book was very well written.