Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #59: Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty

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I’m never sure how much to include in a review of a book from a series. With lighthearted (YA?) fare like Fourth Comings, the fourth (duh) entry in Megan McCafferty’s series about Jessica Darling, I assume that no one really cares if I spoil things from previous entries or not. Fair warning, some of my discussion will ruin things from the first three novels in the series.

Jessica Darling has graduated from Columbia University and is now attempting to enter the workforce and pay off her enormous student loans. She and her BFF Hope Weaver share a tiny room (they call the Cupcake) in a sub-letted Brooklyn apartment requiring Swedish (or is it Norwegian?) heritage of at least ¼ of the occupants of the house. She works part-time as a writer for a magazine no one reads, and part-time as a nanny for her niece Marin. The book starts off with Jessica helping Marcus, her long-time love, move into his dorm room at Princeton University. Things have gotten a little distant with our beloved couple, and Jessica aims to break up with Marcus that very afternoon. What she doesn’t expect is that he will propose in response, and give her a week to decide whether she’ll be his wife.

This, like all the rest of the Darling novels, is told from Jessica’s point of view; what differs here is that her audience isn’t herself. She isn’t writing in her diaries, she’s writing in a notebook she’ll hand over to Marcus at the end of the week. What’s funny with this approach is that you’re left wondering whether she’s being completely forthright about things (though I suppose you could wonder it about her diaries – who HASN’T fudged a little in journals?). My main issue with this approach is that sometimes Jessica writes about things that Marcus knows, but we don’t. So we don’t get the story of the Shit Fit night, when the couple really had it out. Marcus hates NYC, Jessica hates Jersey, and so they seem to be at an impasse.

The usual cast of characters round out the story. We get to know Hope a little better, though Jessica discovers a secret between Hope and Marcus that really throws her for a loop and so Hope is absent for some part of the writing. I do like her, though, and with her there you can finally feel some depth to a friendship that was mostly epistolic in nature before. We still don’t really know Marcus that well at this point, and this entry won’t improve on that much. Hopefully with the final installment (which I believe does have chapters from his point of view) we will. I did enjoy this fourth installment much more than the third, so hopefully McCafferty wraps up the series well in the next one.

Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #44: Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty

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Charmed Thirds is the third in Megan McCafferty’s series on Jessica Darling; this time we find her at Columbia University in NYC and finally free of her sad Jersey hometown of Pineville. Now that she and Marcus Flutie have figured out how they feel about each other, Jessica hopes things will go smoothly for the budding couple. Such an option would make for a boring book, however. Naturally, a cross-country relationship becomes difficult for the pair and Jessica spends her college career figuring out what to do with her life, how to afford dinner, whether she should sleep with her married grad student advisor from her summer project, and what Marcus’ one-word postcards mean, among many other things.

I didn’t love this book as much as I’d loved the first two entries in the series. Perhaps it’s because it felt like more of the same, I’m not sure. Oh Jessica’s neurotic. Marcus and Jessica have a ‘will they/won’t they’ thing going on. Jessica’s parents just don’t understand. Etc.

I think really what it boils down to is that I’m starting to see a lack of growth in our darling Jessica (ha, she’d HATE me for that one) and if you’ve followed my reviews at all this year, you know I struggle with unlikeable characters. That isn’t to say Jessica has become unlikeable, it’s just that her reactions, even at 22 (we get four years of Columbia crammed into one book) feel way too similar to those of her sixteen-year-old self. I won’t pretend that I was the font of maturity at 22 that I am today at 34 (I need sarcasm fonts), but I know I wasn’t the same person I was in high school. Jessica has changed but she continues to exhibit the narcissistic behavior common in teens and that she refuses to acknowledge. This is a really long way of saying that I probably didn’t like this book as much as the ones prior to it because I didn’t have any sympathy for Jessica’s plight. She brings most of the crap in this book on herself.

I’ll pick up the next two books in the series (I think there are just 5, hopefully) just for completeness sake. I will only hope that book four doesn’t spend the entire novel worrying about whether Jessica and Marcus will finally get it together. McCafferty has spent three novels on that issue, I think it can be put to rest for a little while.

Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #39: Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty

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Because I’m a little bit OCD and try to do things in order, I’d put off reading Second Helpings by Meg McCafferty because I had other books checked out that were due earlier, or were for book club. Luckily this past weekend I got to the point where I allowed myself to dive in on my short beach trip, because Jessica Darling is perfect poolside fare. I read it in a day.

For the uninitiated, Jessica Darling is a teenage girl navigating life and love in boring Pineville, New Jersey. Her best friend Hope moved away after the untimely death of her older brother Heath (OD) in the first entry in the series, leaving Jessica struggling to continue life as normal. We open the second entry with Jessica getting ready to leave for a creative writing summer camp in an effort to get away from all things Pineville (especially ‘He-Who-Shall-Remain-Nameless’ aka Marcus Flutie) before returning to complete her senior year in high school. Her parents still don’t get her, her sister is still the perfect daughter, the ‘Clueless Crew’ is still clueless and Marcus still occupies nearly every thought in her teenage mind despite every effort to the contrary.

I won’t go over too much of the plot; this story is entertaining but not necessarily new. It might be worth noting that this novel was written about a decade ago, so it might have been new at its time. The story moves quickly enough, the pace mimicking how fast time flies when you’re immersed in the dramatic happenings of high school life. Jessica is still funny, abrasive, smart and cripplingly unsure of her own identity or self-worth. She’s what most of us were like in some way or another. Marcus is still infuriatingly charming and mysterious but with an obvious affection for our heroine. One of my favorite people in the book is Jessica’s grandmother Gaddie – a spitfire of a 90-year-old whose walker has ribbons to coordinate with her outfits and often tells it all like it is. I don’t recall meeting her in Sloppy Firsts, but I’m glad we did in this book.

I will wrap by simply encouraging folks to check out this series (I’ve already requested the third entry from my library). The heroine is endearingly neurotic; in Jessica we can all find something familiar and hopefully look back at some of our own smile- (or grimace-) inducing moments while reading her story.

Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #33: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

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Sloppy Firsts is the first in a series of books Megan McCafferty has written on Jessica Darling. From what I can tell they start off as YA, since in this first entry she turns 16. I can tell from Goodreads, however, that they expand beyond her high school years so I suppose this series perhaps crosses out of YA into just plain old Adult? But not in the skeezy Adult way, you know just in the grown up way.

Jessica is in the depths of despair because her best friend Hope’s parents have decided that to keep their daughter safe from the pitfalls her recently-deceased older brother fell into, they should move somewhere less ‘scary’ than the suburbs of New Jersey. With Hope goes the only friend Jessica felt she could really trust. The rest of their clique, the ‘Clueless Crew’ as Hope and Jessica have deemed them, are vapid and insufferable, at least to Jessica. The only reason she hangs around them is her fear of being alone.

Amidst all this, she also has to struggle with a mother and sister prepping for a huge wedding, and her overbearing father who pushes her constantly in her training for the school track team. When Marcus Flutie, the local stoner with a reputation as a ladies’ man, takes notice of Jessica as well, everything gets real interesting.

Jessica Darling is a pretty cool chick for her age. She isn’t as self-confident as Astrid in FIrecracker, but she does at least know herself. She fears being alone and friendless enough that she keeps her mouth shut whenever she’s annoyed with the Clueless girls. She’s smart, sarcastic, funny, but just mixed up enough to make her easily recognizable to most female readers. We never get to meet Hope; we only read the letters Jessica writes to her at the beginning of each chapter. I’m eager to read the next entry into the series to see if we do ever get to meet her, she sounds pretty interesting.

There are a couple other main characters that are likeable; Hy (short for Hyacinth, not sure I recall her last name) is a new student who arrives early in Jessica’s Junior year and finally breaks her out of her funk. Hy is the first friend possibility that doesn’t seem stupid or fake – at least at first. Scotty is her class’s hunk/jock, and has been Jessica’s friend for years. Before she left, Hope revealed that Scotty has feelings for Jessica, but she is NOT interested.

The most intriguing person with whom Jessica interacts is Marcus Flutie. He’s tall, with dread locks and a vacant, stoned expression all the time. Rarely is he seen without a woman on his arm (or on his face at his locker), but he’s a notorious womanizer. He also used to be good friends with Hope’s dead brother Heath, so naturally Jessica is hesitant to befriend the guy she and Hope feel may be responsible for introducing Heath to drugs. For some reason though, Marcus suddenly takes notice of Jessica and starts challenging her in several ways. Throughout the book, Jessica struggles to understand her growing attraction to a guy she knows her only true friend would hate.

There is something twisty in the plot that is somewhat cliched, but I still didn’t see it coming. It’s sort of a cliffhanger as well so naturally I’ve already reserved the second book in the series at the library. This is an enjoyable summer read, with plenty of humor and romance and drama to boot.