Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Review: Sloppy Firsts

Title: Sloppy Firsts (Jessica Darling #1)
Author: Megan McCafferty
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Publication Date: January 1st, 2002
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

Jessica Darling, who is anything but darling, is forced to face her sophomore year of high school without the company of her best (and only) friend, Hope. Jessica’s New Jersey high school is full of people she can’t stand, including her so-called ‘friends,’ the Clueless Crew. Her parents don’t understand her in the slightest and are caught up in her older sister’s upcoming wedding. Her father is obsessed with pushing her to become a better runner and enjoys replaying videotapes of all the races she’s lost. High school is hard to face without a good friend beside you, but Jessica manages by keeping touch with Hope through e-mails, phone calls and letters. But soon Jessica finds herself wrapped up in things she can’t even tell Hope about. Hope hates the drug scene that ended her brother’s life, so how can Jessica tell her she’s befriended Marcus Flutie, who stands for everything Hope despises? High school is painful without a best friend, especially when everyone seems to be fake. As Jessica writes about her life and fantasises about being stuck in a small space with a certain upperclassman, everything that’s happened to her just feels like one big sloppy first.

This book would be easy to pass off as silly 'chick lit', but that doesn’t quite fit Sloppy Firsts. What we have here is an intelligent, if not slightly neurotic, main character, who finds herself without any real friends midway through her sophomore year. Jessica Darling is full of angst and sarcasm, and she was certainly a realistic character. Sometimes if I find myself tongue tied before I write a review, I’ll browse through what others have written to help get my thoughts in order. Reading some negative reviews, I saw Jessica described as self-involved and conceited. And both of those things are true, but I loved her all the same. I suppose it comes down to what kind of characters you enjoy reading about. I would always take a flawed person like Jessica over a Mary Sue any day, which makes Sloppy Firsts my kind of book. I loved Jess’ wit and humour, especially when she was sent to guidance for writing ‘Life Sucks, Then You Die’ on her binder, only to convince the counsellor that this was the name of a very hip new band. The guidance counsellor, not wanting to seem out of the loop, goes on to pretend that she loves this band as well. I think the author took a chance by creating a character that, while charming in a certain way, has so many flaws. While not everyone likes this sort of character, luckily I do. Full of humour and drama, what I loved most about this book is its honesty. I read a fair bit of YA, and few of these books really feel similar to my teenage days (which was not that long ago, for the record.) I was in high school a few years after Jess, when there were more cell phones and less boy bands. However, Sloppy Firsts seemed to capture so many things that were familiar to me. In the grand scheme of things, Jess doesn’t have that many problems. While a lot of things in her life do suck, they’re not the end of the world and I’m sure she’ll have forgotten about a lot of these things by the last book in the series. But of course they’re a big deal to her now, and I was definitely the same way when I was sixteen. While some of the secondary characters could be written off as stereotypes, I liked how they showed how so many people in Jess’ school (including herself) are pretending to be someone else. I also liked seeing how Jess (and myself as well) didn’t notice things about people at first and wrote them off as being a certain way. While Hope is Jessica’s best friend, we get to see very little of her throughout the book, because, as Jess explains from the start, their friendship means too much to be aptly described or broken down. The novel is told through Jess’ journal entries, with her letters to Hope shown as introductions to sections. This book reminded me of Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging, mainly due to the honesty, humour, the main character, the drama and the boys. It also felt similar to Bridget Jones’ Diary. I will probably be reading the next in the series when I go on vacation in a few weeks, since it looks like this series is perfect if you’re looking for a funny and realistic book to read while relaxing. Like any book, not everyone will enjoy it. It dragged on a little bit in the middle and I could see people claiming that none of the characters were likable (although I didn’t feel that way.) I’m looking forward to finding out what else is in store for Jessica Darling, and am grateful for the blogger who recommended this frank and humorous book to me.


“You can only be in a bad mood for so long before you have to face up to the fact that it isn't a bad mood at all; it's just your sucky personality.”

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