Welcome to Second Helpings, my favorite novel in the Jessica Darling series. When I was in high school, after reading and rereading Sloppy Firsts and loaning it to any girl in high school who would have it, I anxiously awaited this novel’s release. I drove my friend Jenna to the bookstore the day it came out and she started reading it aloud on our drive home. The first pages of the novel: Hope and Jessica’s (terrible) “Cellulite,” the SPECIAL orientation, Jess’s dad’s attempts to outline a running program are always, to me, read as if Jenna was reading them, struggling because we were both laughing so hard. This month is funny.
I am a sucker for a camp story, probably because I loved camp so much when I was younger. My parents would never spend me to a longer than a week sleep-away camp, despite my begging, but they would send me to multiple week-long girl scout camps. I loved these camps so much that their memories have overpowered those of the basketball camps that I attended in high school. I totally empathize with Jess’s avoidance of cross-country camp. Have you ever played the same sport for eight hours a day? The worst.
SPECIAL works so well in the Jessica Darling series because it’s the first time that we see Jess out of Pineville. The results are, now, expected: the isolation she feels back home is not just a result of her location, a lot of it is caused by Jess herself. Of course, when I first read the novel, I, too, wanted to believe that all of my disappointments with high school were because I was attending a small school in a rural town surrounded by suburbia. Here, we really see how guarded Jess is, how desperately she clings to Hope. We are privy to her private thoughts in her journal, but others, the ones that she interacts with, are constantly shut out and put down. It’s unsurprising that she starts bonding with other girls on her floor and fully supporting Bridget’s dream of acting when she turns in the wrong journal. The real Jessica Darling is exposed. Of course, this exposure will be short-lived, but isn’t that what camp is for?
Things I would text Emily about if we weren’t writing this blog:
Jessica, just room with Bridget!
I love how terrible and death-obsessed all of the other writers are. I think we all knew the type.
Personal confession: I definitely quoted “We are what we pretend to be” to someone after I read this. The worst.
If you liked that, try this:
I’m actually going to post an entire list of camp-related recommendations, but for right now, I’ll give you my favorite: Huge. Huge was an ABC Family that tragically lasted only one season. It’s a teen drama that takes place at a fat camp and it’s created by the woman who produced My So-Called Life and her daughter. The show is smart and sweet and you should watch it. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to see the series without paying money: the DVDs or buying episodes on iTunes are your best bet.