After finishing Megan McCafferty’s Charmed Thirds, the third installment in the Jessica Darling series, I had a dream that Marcus Flutie and I were traveling on a fast, red train across Europe. Marcus had just gotten into some crazy altercation resulting in a busted lip and black eye — oh, that guy! — and I was tending to his wounds on our way to Germany, or Switzerland, or somewhere mountainous and cold. He wrapped his arms around me, moved his lips close to mine and —
Yes, I’ve definitely found myself a new literary crush — and these books have definitely gotten into my brain. They’re swiftly moving up to almost-favorite-book-series-ever territory (behind Harry Potter, natch).
From the back cover:
Jessica Darling’s in college!
Things are looking up for Jessica Darling. She has finally left her New Jersey hometown/hellhole for Columbia University in New York City; she’s more into her boyfriend, Marcus Flutie, than ever (so what if he’s at a Buddhist college in California?); and she’s making new friends who just might qualify as stand-ins for her beloved best friend, Hope.
But Jessica soon realizes that her bliss might not last. She lands an internship at a snarky Brooklyn-based magazine, but will she fit in with the überhip staff (and will she even want to)? As she and Marcus hit the rocks, will she end up falling for her GOPunk, neoconservative RA … or the hot (and married!) Spanish grad student she’s assisting on a summer project … or the oh-so-sensitive emo boy down the hall? Will she even make it through college now that her parents have cut her off financially? And what do the cryptic one-word postcards from Marcus really mean?
Oh, Jessica — it’s a whole new world! Columbia is certainly a far cry from life in Pineville, New Jersey — and what we have on our hands now is an older, more jaded heroine. I know lots of readers have been up in arms about all the changes in Jessica, and I definitely see where they’re coming from. As Jessica leaves high school behind (or does she?), her entire viewpoint shifts.
Charmed Thirds chronicles Jess’s entire college experience — from the early days of freshman year through her anticlimatic December graduation. That’s a pretty serious chunk of time to cover in one novel as McCafferty basically skips from semester break to semester break. But I felt the pacing was appropriate, and I’m not sure I would have wanted to really dwell on all those long academic days in between summer vacations and winter breaks . . . it probably would have ground everything down to a screeching halt.
Jess’s trademark observations in Charmed Thirds lacked much of the spot-on snark of the first two novels, but I can’t say I found her to be a terribly jaded or bitter narrator. I guess at this point, I’ve really gotten to know her — and I don’t hold these “faults” against her. The voice in the novel was just as strong as ever, and I’m more than happy to listen. McCafferty’s writing style is so distinct and commanding — I have no choice but to listen.
I really loved seeing deeper, more meaningful connections between Jessica and her family in this one, and the introduction of niece Marin was really great and adorable. Many of the characters I’ve really liked seemed more fleshed out, too, like Len Levy. His emergence in the story really took me by surprise.
And the drama with Marcus! Oh, there was drama. In a new place with new expectations and really different people, Jessica finds herself inexplicably drawn to a guy who is, basically, her polar opposite — and doesn’t quite know why. She created a mess where there didn’t need to be one, and that was frustrating to watch. But on the same token, I understood her insecurities . . . and could definitely relate to her desire to know if what she had with Marcus was really real, or just “high school” real.
I think it’s really real.
And I have two more books to tear through to find out the answer! But I’m going to pace myself . . . in the fourth book, Jess is starting her first post-college job and battling all of that anxiety. Worried it’ll hit a little too close to home, I’m taking a break from the series and will savor Fourth Comings when the time is right . . . if I can keep myself from reading frantically before then.
4.5 out of 5!