Sloppy Firsts

Sloppy Firsts
(Jessica Darling #1)
by Megan McCafferty
Published 2001 by Three Rivers Press
280 pages. Paperback.
Rating: 4/5

Sloppy Firsts begins in the middle of Jessica Darling’s sophomore year of high school when her best friend, Hope, moves to Tennessee with her family after Hope’s brother Heath dies of a heroin overdose. Jessica, distraught and alone, develops insomnia and decides to pass the time by keeping a journal. There she relays all the interesting goings-on of her life, complete with all her own cynical and humorous observations. One day, Jessica goes to the nurse’s office to lie down after getting dizzy. She’s woken by Marcus Flutie, one of Heath’s old junkie friends. He begs her to take his urine test for him. Not knowing exactly why, she consents. The mysterious and intelligent Marcus decides to befriend Jessica and the two spend their sleepless nights talking on the phone. Jessica spends most of her time trying to understand Marcus and their relationship, and worrying about how Hope would feel if she knew Jessica was hanging out with her brother’s old drug friend.

When I first opened this book, I expected to be reading about a whiney, angsty teenager. I was pleasantly surprised by the very clever Jessica Darling. Her thoughts and opinions are the kinds of things I can remember thinking to myself in high school. Well, Jessica has more wit than I did, but the basic ideas are the same. I also expected to loathe Marcus, since he was the bad boy who encouraged the late Heath in his drug additctions, but again I was too quick to judge. Marcus is one of the most intriguing characters I’ve ever come across. In this early book of the series, he puts on quite a show. Jessica seems to be the only one noticing it. I was just as surprised as Jessica to find that their friendship is as easy as breathing. It’s something Jessica hasn’t actually grasped at this point in the series, but I did. See, Marcus doesn’t pretend, ever. Jessica, on the other hand, is a master at pretending. That is, except when she’s with Marcus. With Marcus she can be herself. She doesn’t have to worry about offending or stepping over the line because that’s something he does to others daily. I realize that I’m focusing a lot on the characters, but that’s because I feel like the characters really make this book.

If there’s a theme to this book I would lean toward the consequences of judgement. This book is full of examples of Jessica’s poor judgement of others coming back to haunt her. She is constantly misjudging people, though some of that doesn’t become apparent in this volume. I think that this dilemma is mainly due to the fact that she spends so much time in her own world and her own thoughts that she fails to observe things closely. It’s a character flaw that I share with her. I’m often oblivious to the problems of others because I can’t get out of my own head long enough to notice what’s really going on. It amazes me that her friends are so forgiving of this characteristic, but then again so are mine. I suppose that’s what is so wonderful about friends.

The writing itself is nothing terribly special. McCafferty is very witty, but matter-of-fact in her writing. There’s no pretty analogies. It’s just Jessica’s thoughts, plain and simple. I like this because it’s appropritate for this story. It’s also similar to the way I write, so I suppose I would apprecitate it.

I’ve read through the third book of this seriesm, so I have more to go on than this book. The thing that has me loving these books is not the writing or even really the plot. There is just something very unique about Marcus and Jessica. Maybe it’s that they’re much more real than the usual characters I come across in books. I can relate to them or I know people just like them. That’s always something I look for in the books I read.

Source: Goodreads Bookswap
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