“Long before Stephenie Meyer dreamed up her vampire heart-throb, Edward Cullen, there was Megan McCafferty’s tempting-yet-forbidden Marcus Flutie.” (Nat)
Say no more, Natalie . . . say no more. That’s about all the introduction I needed to grab Megan McCafferty’s Sloppy Firsts, a chronicle of New Jersey high schooler Jessica Darling’s attempts to make sense of her best friend’s move, back-stabbing and “poseur” friends at Pineville High, finding a way to live up to her parents’ expectations for her life, track & field career and . . .
Yeah. I’m not going to try and oversimplify this one. I’m actually going to cheat and toss you over to the back cover:
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.
What to say about this one? I’m still buzzing about it . . . mostly because I absolutely loved it. First, Jessica is one seriously awesome female narrator. Twilight’s Bella be damned — we have one outspoken, empowered and marvelously entertaining chick to walk us through life as a “social iconoclast.” And Marcus — or “Krispy Kreme,” as his classmates tag him — is one majorly complicated and mesmorizing character. As Jess becomes more and more obsessed with finding out the motives behind his seemingly drug-induced actions, I found myself gripping onto her elbow, desperately trying to figure out what could have been written in that origami-mouth note Marcus slips her before school lets out.
And when we finally did read the note? Le sigh.
No one in this book is perfect . . . even the seemingly “perfect” bubblegum bimbo friends Bridget, Manda and Sara that Jessica is forced to associate with after Hope leaves town. Jess certainly has her issues — Marcus being one of them, arguably. I just found the progression of their friendship to be very natural, amusing and . . . exciting. I actually felt excited while reading this book. So excited, in fact, that I finished it in two days. I really loved seeing Jessica interact with her mom and dad, and hoped against hope that she would step up to be a good “friend” to her mother after older sister Bethany marries and moves to California. Though Jess doesn’t think she has much in common with the Darlings, readers definitely get a sense that they share more than just their cutesy last name. I like when I realize something about a character even before they seem to . . . and this was true quite a bit.
While some of the cursing got a little out of control and the dialogue felt a bit dated (Sloppy Firsts was published in 2001), I was so thoroughly engrossed in this story that I didn’t even realize it was ending until I went to a turn the page and was greeted with the . . . author’s acknowledgements. What a let down! As I know four books follow McCafferty’s debut novel, I’m not too concerned with how things were left between Marcus and our heroine. I have a feeling life will work in mysterious ways. McCafferty is an outstanding writer who definitely captured all the joy, indecision, anger and heart-pounding fun of high school . . . even if my own experiences weren’t quite so, ah, complicated.
And I know it’s a great book if by that fated final page, I have a massive new literary crush. Step aside, Edward!
5 out of 5!