Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Recommendation: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

Megan McCafferty's Sloppy Firsts series is not your typical teenage-drama.  Jessica Darling, or as her father not-so-affectionately calls her Not-So-Darling, and her biting realism are a far cry from the fluff and filler of contemporary teen chick lit on the market today.  Jessica's journey from high school horror to post-graduate professionalism gives McCafferty's novels a staying power that continues to attract new fans of the series ten years after Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie make their appearance in Sloppy Firsts.  In celebration of a decade of angst-ridden high school humor, I am highlighting ten ways that Megan McCafferty's Sloppy Firsts series has impacted my life.

1. I named my iPod "Chaos Called Creation" after a poem bad-boy Marcus Flutie writes for Jessica in Sloppy Firsts.  His way with words will make even the most straight-laced, do-gooder swoon at his feet.

2. When Perfect Fifths was published in the spring of 2009, I forwent studying for my final exams and instead re-read Fourth Comings before immediately devouring Perfect Fifths.  (Don't worry; I still passed my exams!)
3. Marcus Flutie's ironic wearing of a Backstreet Boys t-shirt made me feel slightly less embarrassed about blasting the boy band in my car.
4. Jessica and I were united in the war against teen angst and acne.
5. Beginning with Sloppy Firsts, I was introduced to teen lit encouraging me NOT to conform - a message I was only too happy to comply with.
6. Jessica made it okay to quit the activity you were good at but you hated - for her, running - for me, Math Counts (Yes, once upon a time, I, the English teacher, was part of an organization that called its participants "mathletes" - I shudder at the memory.)
7. Perfect Fifths taught me to find the perfection in the imperfect moments.
8. My best friend Bonnie and I are an abstract version of Hope and Jessica.  Bonnie is a creative artist, a la Hope, yet cynical, like Jessica.  I am more of a hopeful (Hope) do-gooder (Jessica).  We have been inseparable since 8th grade, and lived together for five years until I got married last November.  Looking back on Jessica and Hope's sophomore separation gives me hope for our friendship now that we are learning to live apart.
9. Older and wiser Kristin has learned from younger and more naive Jessica (circa Sloppy Firsts) to look beyond stereotypes.
10. Marcus, Marcus, (marred kiss) demonstrated that not every marred kiss is a marred opportunity.

This series is witty and engaging, and Megan McCafferty has a way of making you feel like she is writing for you. yes. you.  This is one of the few series where I find the final book to be as compelling, interesting, and well-written as the first.  I think that is because we as readers get to grow with Jessica.  I picked up the series when I was in high school, and the subsequent books about Jessica's college and post-college life came out as I was navigating my way through college, the workforce, and a committed relationship.  Unlike a lot of the "Bubble-Gum Bimbo" voices on the market today, Jessica Darling offers a very real, very honest, and very raw look at the world that 99% of teens and twenties can relate to because they too, at one time or another, have felt like an outsider with sarcasm and cynicism as the only weapons in their arsenal.  If you are looking for a saucy, smart heroine and her mysterious, slightly troubled counterpart to help ease you into the new school year, I urge you to pick up Megan McCafferty's Sloppy Firsts.  McCafferty's insight and mastery of teen melodrama is as relevant today as it was ten years ago.

Best matched with bitter high school memories, notes passed in the hall, and reminisces of your own, personal high school bad boy.

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