Yes, I have found myself sucked into another teen/high school series. Something about this one though makes me feel as though it is intended for an older audience. The narrator, Jessica (Notso, as her dad refers to her) Darling has a little bit of that intelligent mouthy sassiness that makes me hesitate to recommend this book to my students, but will (and have) recommended to my adult friends who enjoy young adult lit. This book is the first in a series of four, of which I am already halfway through the second one titled Second Helpings.
Summary: The book begins as the start of Jessica’s sophomore year. Her best friend has moved away, leaving Jessica to face life high school with “The Clueless Crew”, three vacant minded Barbie doll type girls of whom Jessica only partially pretends to like. Jessica feels as though she doesn’t belong in Pineville and nobody understands her the way Hope (the friend who moved away) did. With keen observations and dark cynicism, Jessica watches as those around her seem to float through life in a protective bubble of oblivion. And then there’s the new girl, Hy. She seems like she could be friend potential with her New York City ways and non-mainstream interests, but then she suddenly starts giving Jessica the cold shoulder. The only other one who seems to be on her level is Marcus Flutie, a known “dreg” and part of the reason Hope moved way.
Review: Megan McCafferty has clearly tapped into the minds of teenagers. This book was hilarious and heartfelt at the same time. Jessica is a critical observer of all those around her, but with the help of Marcus Flutie, she begins to observe her own behavior as well, and sees how she is just as quick to judge those she is criticizing. Its not as mushy, after-school special-y as that last statement made it sound. Quite the contrary, the narrator has a fresh voice, which is often shocking in its honesty. For example, when she discovers that the boy she has been crushing on for the last two years has finally come out of the closet her reaction is, “I know. Shame on me. How Slim Shady. I know I should be happy for Paul Parlipiano. He’s not lying to himself anymore. Yet I can’t help but be pissed. Not because I don’t have a chance with him now; God knows I never had chance with him, even when he was ‘straight.’ No. I’m pissed because I can’t fantasize about him anymore. I’ve created this stellar little imaginary world around him and now he’s ruined it. It’s one thing to get all torqued up over a guy who doesn’t know you exist. It’s quite another to get all torqued up over a guy who doesn’t know you exist and likes to take it where the sun don’t shine. One is fantasy. The other is just plain masochistic….. I’m starting to think I don’t know a thing about anyone. Or anything. My entire notion of sex and love is totally, completely and irreversibly screwed.”