Book Review: Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty

At first it seems that she’s living the elusive New York City dream. She’s subletting an apartment with her best friend, Hope, working for a magazine that actually utilizes her psychology degree, and still deeply in love with Marcus Flutie, the charismatic addict-turned-Buddhist who first captivated her at sixteen.

Of course, reality is more complicated than dreamy clichés. She and Hope share bunk beds in the “Cupcake”—the girlie pastel bedroom normally occupied by twelve-year-old twins. Their Brooklyn neighborhood is better suited to “breeders,” and she and Hope split the rent with their promiscuous high school pal, Manda, and her “genderqueer boifriend.” Freelancing for an obscure journal can’t put a dent in Jessica’s student loans, so she’s eking out a living by babysitting her young niece and lamenting that she, unlike most of her friends, can’t postpone adulthood by going back to school.

Yet it’s the ever-changing relationship with Marcus that leaves her most unsettled. At the ripe age of twenty-three, he’s just starting his freshman year at Princeton University. Is she ready to give up her imperfect yet invigorating post-college life just because her on-again/off-again soul mate asks her to… marry him?

Jessica has one week to respond to Marcus’s perplexing marriage proposal. During this time, she gains surprising wisdom from unexpected sources, including a popular talk show shrink, a drag queen named Royalle G. Biv, and yes, even her parents. But the most shocking confession concerns two people she thought had nothing to hide: Hope and Marcus.

Will this knowledge inspire Jessica to give up a world of late-night literary soirees, art openings, and downtown drunken karaoke to move back to New Jersey and be with the one man who’s gripped her heart for years? Jessica ponders this and other life choices with her signature snark and hyper-intense insight, making it the most tumultuous and memorable week of her twenty-something life.

My Rating:  3 cupcakes

I’ve been getting more and more disappointed with this series, which is rather unfortunate given my immense love for Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings. Part of it is due to the fact that the college years just don’t seem as poignant as the high school ones – whether it’s due to the repeated stories, or the fact that I can’t quite relate to Jessica Darling’s issues, I just didn’t enjoy Fourth Comings as much as I had hoped I would.

Fourth Comings is a series of two journals written to Marcus after he abruptly proposes, and takes place over the course of one week. While reading it, though, it certainly felt a lot longer than one week – everything was drawn out, and not a lot really happened. Jessica’s constant flip-flopping between saying yes and saying no to Marcus got to be a bit much after a while, though I did like that she took the time to contemplate the decision; marriage isn’t something to be taken lightly, and as someone who doesn’t believe in such an institution, it only makes sense that Jessica would need to consider all of the potential outcomes of her answer.

I’m not quite sure how to feel about Jessica’s relationship with Marcus. In Sloppy Firsts, I was rooting for them to get together. In Second Helpings, I was so excited when it finally happened. Charmed Thirds made me realize just how different their relationship has become: in the first two books, Jessica’s journals involved so many retellings of conversations with Marcus, but now they barely speak to one another. One of the high points of Fourth Comings was knowing that Jessica was writing to Marcus – and although it meant that a more censored side of her was shown, it was nice to see some sort of communication.

Jessica’s character continues to mature in this book. She comes to recognize her own insecurities, her selfishness, and the fact that her relationship with Marcus isn’t as perfect as she may have lead readers to think. She continues to build and strengthen her relationships with her parents, her sister, and her friends, and learns that the life of a college graduate is a lot more difficult than one would imagine.

The illustrious Hope Weaver finally makes an appearance in Fourth Comings. It was really nice to see her interactions with Jessica, since readers have only “met” her through letters in previous installments. McCafferty perfectly captures the best friend dynamic: while there is still a strong bond between them, time and distance have shown that there is so much that they still don’t know about one another.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy Fourth Comings as much as the first two Jessica Darling books. Despite that, I definitely intend to read Perfect Fifths, if only to see just how much more Jessica grows.

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