The Books: The Jessica Darling Series, by Megan McCaferty
The Story: Jessica Darling is a snarky, brainy, opinionated high school junior when we meet her in the first book. She is devastated and lonely because her best friend, Hope has just moved away and she’s flying solo. She is a virgin and, while she plans to stay that way for awhile, has her mind in the gutter a good majority of the time. During this first book, Jessica does a favor for one of the druggies in class, Marcus Flutie. He is kind of a ‘bad boy’ and Jessica is at first repulsed, and then totally in love with him.
The next four books, while (mostly) written from Jessica’s point of view, tend to revolve around Marcus. I don’t want to give anything at all away, but suffice to say that their relationship is rocky at best and Jessica’s journals capture this.
The books capture just that essence of moving from one phase of life to the next. We see her parents go from treating her like a kid to treating her more like an adult, with one unfortunate, much-too-personal encounter. We watch her friends grow up, get married, get pregnant (not always in that order) and grow apart and back together. We kind of just see her come into her own, messing up and fumbling all the while.
What I Thought: First off, I think it’s nearly impossible to write a summary of a whole series without giving anything away. Hopefully I succeeded. I have re-read it a few times and think that we’re spoiler free.
So. What did I think? These books came to me highly, highly recommended. I had read the first book when I was in high school, but honestly forgot all about the series until a group of my friends went crazy for them. I have been reading heavy, tough stuff lately, so last time I went to the library I picked up the series.
So glad I did.
The first two I really loved. I think that I would have been friends with Jessica Darling in high school. I loved how she was so cynical and jaded. That was just exactly me, but I could have never dreamed of being able to relay it so well. Her take on things cracked me up and I was surprised when I loved the second one even more than the first.
The third and forth books were not super great for me. This is when Jessica was in college and her relationship with Marcus was weirder and rockier than ever. She kind of made strange friends and, for me, turned into a much more bland, much less snarky person. I missed the “guts” in these two. They just seemed kind of empty. They were still light, fun reads, but I have to admit that I found myself skimming sometimes. Marcus is obsessed over but not seen too much in these two books, and to be honest, the obsessive whining was starting to get on my nerves…
And then we get to the fifth book. I was blown away. Again, I really don’t want to spoil anything but… wow. I think what I loved most of all was that in the first four books, Marcus was a main idea but we never really got to know him as a character. This book was not written as a diary, but from a third person point of view. We finally got inside Marcus’ head, and I have to admit, I got myself a literary crush. I finally felt like I got to know him and see what Jessica sees in him. At last.
I think that this series is perfect for girls that are in that age range or just past. I am just past so I thought it was great to look back and remember what it was like to go though all those crazy changes. For girls in high school and college and just after, I feel like these books would be a revelation. Jessica Darling just seems so real, so her struggles and victories and friends and family are absolutely relatable. I could pick out the Hope in my life, the Bridget in my life, the Len in my life, the Dexy in my life, and I really think that that is what made these books so good.
I thought that the author was clever in how she used letters, essays, diary entries, poems, and then later standard narrative to put together a fairly seamless series. This can be a risky way to write and Megan McCafferty rose to the challenge and actually managed it quite well.
Conclusion: Read these. They are good, light, fun reads but they have real guts, real heart. I don’t know what else to say. Don’t be a book snob. Read them. If you’re not convinced yet, know that there are some steamy, sweaty sex scenes. See? I knew you’d give in.