June 10, 2013

Review: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

Title: Sloppy Firsts (Jessica Darling #1)
Megan McCafferty
Release Date: August 28th, 2001
Publisher: Broadway Books
Page Count: 298
Source: Borrowed from the New York Public Library
Rating: Old school YA brillaince 
“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.”

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.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

Jessica's best friend moves away and, to say Jessica's totally depressed about this is such an understatement, I can't even tell you. Jessica tries to fake it until she makes it with just about everyone, including her parents, but she doesn't get very far. Then she meets Marcus Flutie and boy SHAKES. THINGS. UP.

Let's break this down:

I like Jessica. A lot. I really do. She's a PERSON. Like, she's angst-y and anguish-y at exactly the right proportions for a teen whose bestie's moved away. She's totally relatable and even though all of the things she does makes me all rage-y (STOP HATING THOSE ANNOYING GIRLS AND SEEKING THEIR APPROVAL ALL AT THE SAME TIME), it makes all kind of teenage sense. And I like teenage sense.

Okay, not only do I like Jessica, I also really like just about everyone in this book - even when I didn't (thanks Jessica's whole family - ESPECIALLY her older sister, ALL of her friends and even sometimes Marcus Flutie). I think that's a sign of a really good book, more than anything else. Like, can you make me care about a crazy overbearing father or a boy who's a pothead? Yeah? GOOD FREAKING JOB because those are usually the characters I'd be more than happy to kick to the curb. Although, I will say I'm not as crazy into Marcus Flutie as everyone else seems to be - at least, not yet. Maybe one day soon? I'm starting book 2 soon? DON'T HATE ME OKAY?

But yeah, I'm fairly sure my absolute favorite aspect of this book is the year it was published. I think it's pretty clear that I'm an "old soul" when it comes to YA. Yeah, there are A LOT of newer releases I love the pants of, but there's something about the YA books of 10 years ago from back when there wasn't a lot of YA and you didn't have to be super original and write about crazy things. Back when you could JUST write about true teenage angst and have that be enough.

Which is what this book is: True Teenage Angst and complete and utter Teenage Absurdity (re: constantly and casually getting cozier and cozier with the biggest pothead in school). It totally bleeds off the page and there's totally times when I wanted to shake Jessica, but at the same time you can understand. You can totally relate because it's a realistic situation that I'm sure a lot of readers have lived through themselves (if I made a checklist, I'd at least be able to mark off my sister getting married my junior year. But it was WAY less exciting than Bethany's wedding). I mean, I can't see you, but if you ever found yourself in a Jessica Darling situation in high school, raise your hand.

I feel like a bunch of you raised your hands. I just couldn't see it. But all I can say is that I hope you never had to deal with that Marcus Flutie in the nurse's office situation. That seems supremely sketch and unacceptable. But maybe that's just Sheltered Small Private High School Gaby talking (she does a lot of talking, even though she's technically Less Sheltered Private College Graduate Gaby now).

But I digress. Like big time. Which I think is the sign of a good book. If I can talk about a book and truly relate it to my like, like I can this one, then the author's done her job. And, just for the record, Teen Me (as described above) would have thoroughly enjoyed being Jessica's friend. If she'd have me, of course.

The long and short of it?

Plot: 100 percent believable.
World Building: Why yes, this IS how a teenager would behave and how a high school would work.
Character Development: By the end of Book 1, it's clear that Jessica's still a work in progress. And she IS making progress and there are 4 more books, so... SO.
Prose: This book is Jessica's voice and, as such, the prose couldn't be any truer to a teenage girl in crisis, which I love.
Would I Recommend This Book?: If you're looking to get back to the ABCs of YA (the contemporary ABCs to be more specific), this is one of the series you should definitely pick up!

Have you read Sloppy Firsts? What about Second Helpings or any of the other books in the series? Do you get the Marcus Flutie appeal? Or is it still a little bit of a mystery for you too? Make sure to make yourself heard in the comments below!


  1. I have been dying to check this series out, as everyone and their grandmother seems to adore it. It seems like that perfect kind of contemp that isn't too sweet and fluffy, but isn't too dark and depressing either.

    This was a great review, Gaby!

  2. I really want to read this book! I know a lot of people who really love it, and I also really think I'd enjoy it! Unfortunately, it hasn't quite happened for me yet - but hopefully soon. Plus, your review just cracked me up :)

  3. I haven't read them but some of my friends that don't read as much LOVE them. I had crushes on guys that were potheads because they were nice. Or they seemed nice, anyway. So Marcus might remind me of some of them, ha!

  4. This series is one of my absolute favorites - YA before YA was cool. Glad you enjoyed it!

  5. I'm so glad that I listened to the many bloggers who had love affairs with the Jessica Darling series, because I really think it is such a great addition to the contemporary YA genre. And you make a fantastic point about older YA books (in publication date, not in character age) - that they don't have to try as hard to be different because they weren't as common. That they could just focus on being realistic depictions of teenager trials and tribulations. Jessica Darling is not only the most realistic YA protagonist I've read in a while, but just so interesting. That's great you were able to enjoy this so much! I hope you continue with the series soon!

    I also wasn't a fan of Marcus Flutie after only reading book one. I think he's a character that grows on you and becomes better as the series goes on. I've only read the first two so far, but he's already a lot better in book two.

  6. I have this one on my Nook. I love that it's YA that was written before the most recent OMGYA craze. I loooooved books like Sweet Valley, and the Babysitter's Club books. THOSE were MY YA. I love where YA is at now for the most part, but I have so many good memories of reading YA books as a teen.

    Fabulous review, girl. I agree that when an author can get you to care about a character you normally wouldn't...THAT is a good book.

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

  7. I've seen a lot of people who like this one! I'm looking forward to checking it out soon! It sounds like something I'd like. =)


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