For the past few months, Second Helpings seems to have revolved around guys. But, in March, the novel detours away from romantic relationships to better understand Jessica as she starts evolving from bored and angry high school student to interesting and complicated adult. Without the Jenn Sweet-PACO trip to New York City, who would Jessica be? To me, it’s one of the most important days of the whole series.
We’ve talked about the limitations and advantages of the diary on this blog many, many times. Like Emily said in her last post, Jessica remarking that she had to tear up her break-up entries make them even sadder than if we had to read paragraph upon paragraph about how she couldn’t believe that Len dumped her. How she couldn’t believe that Manda was a born-again virgin. How she couldn’t believe anything she was saying because she knew she loved Marcus more than she ever liked Len. But journal entries are limiting. And when Jessica is sad and needs a Jessication, they can get a little exhausting. Luckily, Megan McCafferty is able to give us different perspectives even if they are filtered through Jessica’s journal entries. Bridget has always been one — it’s why her honesty is so important. We as readers know that whatever she says is the truth.
Similarly, this month we have Hy’s creation of Jenn Sweet, the Jessica Darling that we all knew was there, beneath the cynical and doubting journal entries. Jenn Sweet is a bold, intelligent character who stands up for what she believes in, is almost impossibly cool, and tragically placed in suburbia when she really craves a more sophisticated and cultured set of peers. In short, Jenn Sweet is who Jessica wishes she could be, especially after her somewhat failed attempts at SPECIAL to break out of her own shell. Except, Jessica is Jenn. Seeing yourself how others see you can be terrifying, but here it’s empowering and rewarding. And she comes at the perfect time. Inspired by Jenn, Jessica has the courage to dismiss Paul’s ridiculous Snake March for what it is: meaningless. After her discussion with Hy, Jessica realizes how important and bold that dismissal was.
Every time I reread this novel (which is A LOT), I am always surprised that we aren’t at the Snake March yet. In my mind, it happens in November, October even. It’s such a turning point for Jessica — she realizes that she is the person she always wished she could become, she wants more than what she had always longed for, and the places and people that once intimidated her are not so scary after all. Once scared of the abnormal genius of the Ivies, Jessica now expertly dresses down the somewhat clueless but still imposing students of PACO (right? I’m in Philly and don’t have the novel with me). And those students are so, so annoying.
Again, I have to cut this entry short because I’m leaving for the train station. If I think of a recommendation for this month, I’ll post it later.