Sloppy Firsts is the first of the Jessica Darling series. In it, we meet Jessica Darling, a high school sophomore in Pineville, New Jersey. Jessica’s best friend, Hope, has just moved halfway across to the country and Jessica is stuck feigning a friendship with the Clueless Crew, her ditzy, boy-crazy, gossipy, and somewhat skanky friends. Jessica also begins a friendship with and develops more-than-friendly feelings for Marcus Flutie, stoner-turned-honors-student.
Jessica Darling might be my new favorite teenage book character. She is smart, snarky, highly analytical and observant (of both herself and others), and she deals with a lot of tough stuff in a realistically teenage manner. Jessica doesn’t feel like she lives up to her parents expectations for her and feels a lot of pressure to be someone she isn’t from them. She loses a best friend and believes that there is no one left at Pineville High School who could ever fill that void. She gets depressed and anxious, though not in a clinically diagnosed or treated way. She is obsessed with the high school social order at the same time that she claims to hate all those who buy into it. And the whole time, she is funny and self-deprecating, but sort of confident and above-it-all.
And everyone who has ever praised this series also is in love with Marcus Flutie. He is the bad boy turned good boy. He’s quirky and big-hearted in a believable way. Marcus likes working with the old fogues (is that pronounced fogies because I’ve never in my life seen it spelled that way, except in this book) at the local retirement/nursing home. He is loyal and keeps the secret he shares with Jessica to himself. I found myself loving him because of his sense of humor. In his stoner days, he wears Backstreet Boys and Dawson’s Creek t-shirts to school to be ironically funny. It is funny. We get to see a lot of Marcus in this book and although Jessica is crazy about him, she is always finding ways to deny herself the relationship she wants and deserves with him. It is ultimately FRUSTRATING, but then again so is adolescent romance.
One thing I loved about this book is that Jessica and I are roughly the same age… I think she would be in class of 2002, I was class of 2003. Needless to say, I got all the cultural references and a lot of the generational sentiments felt familiar and relatable. For example, Jessica writes actual letters to Hope, at the same time that they exchange regular emails and IMs. While that sounds EXACTLY like how I maintained long-distance relationships when I moved during high school, I cannot imagine teens these days exchanging letters or IMs. It’d all be texts and facebook! Some of this might feel old-fashioned to today’s teens, but I imagine that Jessica’s humor and the relationship between Jessica and Marcus is pretty universally appealing. There is definitely an added sentiment to this book for those of us who were teens in the early 2000s.
I highly recommend this book to those of you who like smart, funny, self-deprecating heroines who have romantic interests who are smart, funny, and two-dimensional. It is a quick, fun read that will remind you how lucky you are to no longer be in high school, while at the same time giving you a nice hit of nostalgia.
Kyle @ A Reader’s Pensieve
I believe this turned up on my radar due to the mention of Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie on Top Ten Tuesday lists, but I didn’t write it down, so all of you who have been talking about these two get credit for the recommendation– thanks!!