Book Review: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

“My parents suck ass. Banning me from the phone and restricting my computer privileges are the most tyrannical parental gestures I can think of. Don’t they realize that Hope’s the only one who keeps me sane? . . . I don’t see how things could get any worse.”

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.

My Rating:  4 cupcakes

Sloppy Firsts is written in a way that is very similar to the Ruby Oliver series by E. Lockhart – a series that I thoroughly enjoyed. Through Jessica Darling’s journal entries and letters to her best friend, Hope, readers get to experience the mess that is high school right alongside her. As a result, there isn’t a lot of dialogue; just Jessica’s introspective thoughts, feelings, and summations of what went on in her day. While I usually prefer books with a lot of dialogue, Jessica’s diary reminded me so much of my own, and this authenticity certainly contributed to my enjoyment of the story.

Jessica Darling, our narrator, is someone I immediately identified with. She’s intelligent, engaging, cynical, and sometimes crazy, which made for a hilarious and thought-provoking read. Her voice perfectly captures what it’s like to be a teenager in high school, especially one from a small town, and I really enjoyed watching her slowly reevaluate her opinions and preconceived notions about her classmates and her town throughout the course of the book.

Before reading Sloppy Firsts all I knew about the story was that Marcus Flutie was practically everyone’s book boyfriend. So imagine my surprise when he was introduced as a “dreg” and a “Krispy Kreme” – or a drug user with red dreads who was certainly not my type. Thankfully, Marcus evolved as a character, and managed to make me appreciate his unpredictability and intelligence, even if I’m still not quite sold on him.

The secondary characters in Sloppy Firsts are just as interesting as Jessica and Marcus, and I really enjoyed watching the “Clueless Crew” and other stereotypical, high school archetypes grow into something other than the labels they were given. High school relationships aren’t the only facet that was explored, however; Jessica’s parents are present, flaws and all, and equal time is devoted to exploring their relationship.

And can I just say how well McCafferty treated the topic of sexual relationships in high school? Instead of perpetuating the virgin/whore dichotomy that is seen way too much in YA fiction, sex was discussed in such a frank and open way – and given that this came out in 2000, that’s pretty impressive.

Overall, I really enjoyed Sloppy Firsts. Although I just started this series, I have a feeling that it’s going to be one of my new favourites.

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