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The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection (Jessica Darling's It List #1)

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The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection (Jessica Darling's It List #1)
Publisher
Age Range
10+
Release Date
September 03, 2013
ISBN
0316244996
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Move over, Dork Diaries! Jessica Darling, star of Megan McCafferty's bestselling Jessica Darling series for adults, is back in a hilarious new series perfect for tween (10 to 14) girls.

I hadn't even gotten to homeroom yet and I'd already discovered five hard truths about junior high:

1. My best friend had turned pretty.
2. She didn't know it yet.
3. It wouldn't be long before she did.
4. That knowledge would change everything between us.
5. And there wasn't a thing I could do about it.

It's the first day of seventh grade. Is Jessica Darling doomed for dorkdom?

New York Times bestselling author Megan McCafferty's hilarious series opener will have you laughing, cringing, and cheering for Jessica Darling as she learns that being herself beats being popular, pretty & perfect any day.

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Jessica Darling Takes on Middle School!
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What I Liked:
As a huge fan of the original Jessica Darling series, or, at least, as huge of a fan as one can be while intentionally deciding not to finish said series, I was super curious about Megan McCafferty's prequel. I mean, more Jessica Darling is pretty much always acceptable, except for the fact that I had my reasons in stopping after two books, but that's an issue from another time. Anyway, now we can see Jessica tackle junior high, and McCafferty brings Jessica's trademark wit, observational skills and honesty to middle school.

Middle school Jessica does have a lot in common with high school Jessica, which is probably not all that surprising given that they are the same person separated by some timey-wimey stuff known as life. McCafferty does a good job making the narration similar but a bit different than that of the original series. This Jessica does come across a good deal younger. She's not got as impressive of a vocabulary, though she's starting to build it because she's discovered that her English teacher will really raise her essay grades for each thesaurus phrase substituted for a normal term. Plus, middle school Jessica is a lot more naive and less confident than high school Jessica.

By high school, Jessica Darling has pretty much comes to terms with her role in the social hierarchy and that she will never be the most popular girl in school. In middle school, Jessica's still trying to be what she's not. The series title, Jessica Darling's It List, is actually a bit misleading. In fact, this is Bethany's It List. Jessica's much older sister Bethany, in a rare instance of sisterly feeling, has decided to help Jessica avoid the curse of dorkdom by passing down the patented method for achieving popularity. Unsurprisingly, the It List does not work so well for Jessica.

See, Jessica, intelligent though she is, does not excel at pretending to be something she is not. Her half-hearted attempts end up fooling no one. Jessica's a bit of a dork and a teacher's pet, and there's no changing that. If she doesn't care about boys, she won't pretend to and she has trouble caring about her friends' woes over such things either. In fact, her biggest seventh grade fails occur when she stops being Jessica, like when she signs up for CHEER TEAM!!!, which she does not have the spirit for.

Megan McCafferty totally captures all the awkwardness of middle school. The romantic awkwardness, like how the boys chant at Bridget on the bus, like hooting like a pack of monkeys is really endearing. Or how Aleck (aka young Marcus Flutie) flirts with a "wear her down" annoyance tactic. The friendship awkwardness, which is pretty much encapsulated by Bridget becoming gorgeous just in time for seventh grade, leaving Jessica to be a normal. The middle school years especially are a time of transition where friendships come and go, and many BFFs are actually trying to climb on top of one another up the social ladder. Then there's the budding friendship between Hope and Jessica, who any readers of the original series know will be besties eventually, bonded by their judgment of everyone else's stupidity and ridiculous social rituals.

What Left Me Wanting More:
I'm not entirely certain why, but I was lacking that connection that I had in Jessica Darling that made me an emotional mess all the way through those.

The Final Verdict:
Though it's been too long for me to say with any assurance how well the occurrences here mesh with those of Sloppy Firsts, The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection does stand very nicely on its own. McCafferty's depiction of middle school cliques, awkwardness and romance shines with her trademark humor.
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Jessica Darling's It List by Megan McCafferty
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4.0
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Not going to lie, I was not expecting much from this book. First off, its a spin off of a very popular YA series that I haven't read yet. I barely knew much about it besides the fact that the girl's name was Jessica Darling. In other words, I was scared of all the hype.
But fortunately, I didn't really need to worry. From the very beginning this book was hilarious and super realistic. For it to be a MG I was lost in its pages. What made it even better for me was the way I could relate to it. See I'm a middle sister, and my older "sister" (she's my god sister but my mom basically adopted her) just turned 40 and I'm just 24. I only vaguely remembered my sister being around and when I was starting middle school and high school I didn't have anyone to help me either. I also have a little sister who's about to turn 18 in Oct and I feel like I missed her most pivotal years because I was away in college. This book definitely shows the real relationship between a girl and her older sister. It doesn't feel fake or over exaggerated in any way.
As you can tell by the quotes, you can see that this book is also HILARIOUS. One of the main reasons I love MG's is because they are so funny and light and fluffy. They can get me out of a funk like no other age group. And this one was no different. I laughed out loud many times and had people giving me some weird looks, but I didn't care. It was such a great story.
Overall, I was really impressed with this MG novel. The truth it held and the humorous situations were just what I needed to give me a good light and fluffy read before all the dark stuff I plan to read for Halloween! It also opened my eyes to McCafferty's writing. I will be reading the YA Jessica Darling series as soon as I can get my hands on it!
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