Jessica Darling’s It List: Darlings Aren’t Dorks

I was so excited to read Jessica Darling’s It List #1: The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection and get a look at how Jessica Darling became the witty, cynical girl we all know and love. As expected, I loved seeing Jessica and Bridget as BFFs and meeting the Clueless Two for the first time, but I didn’t expect to be so delighted to read more about Bethany. In Sloppy Firsts, Jessica notes that the only thing she and Bethany share is a love for John Hughes movies. But in the It List, Bethany acts more like a big sister, by making frequent appearances in Jess’s life and giving her Bethany Darling’s It List: The Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection as Jessica begins middle school.

Bethany’s It List, scrawled on the back of a Cheer Team schedule in lip liner, commands:

  1. Wear something different every day.
  2. Make the CHEER TEAM!!!!
  3. Pick you first boyfriend wisely.
  4. Stick with the IT clique.

These rules never failed Bethany in middle school, and she fails to realize that Jessica may need a different set. Even when Bethany tries to provide further guidance, things don’t go as planned. Jess follows directions and looks to Bethany’s closet for outfit inspiration. She finds a cache of cool band T-shirts when she was supposed to find inspiration in Bethany’s Style Inventories (Why haven’t I been keeping style inventories??? Not the point, I guess.). Obviously, hilarity will ensue when Jessica tries to join the Cheer team, she has no luck finding a boyfriend, and we all know how sticking with the IT clique will turn out for Jess.

Though it takes a while to figure out exactly what is going on with Bethany, the fact that she keeps stopping home to check the mail when she knows her parents won’t be home, makes it clear that all is not right in Bethany’s world. Bethany remembers middle school as a time when she had things all figured out, and thinks that by helping Jessica, she can regain some control. By Sloppy Firsts, Bethany appears to be living the dream with G-Money. Now that we’ve gotten to Charmed Thirds in our reread, Bethany seems more human and less like Dream Home Barbie. I love how Bethany and Jessica’s relationship progresses throughout the series, and seeing them at an earlier point in time just underscores how important that growth is.

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One thought on “Jessica Darling’s It List: Darlings Aren’t Dorks

  1. I really love that Jessica’s relationship with her whole family is explored in this novel. Knowing Bethany when she’s first starting to struggle really does help to explain their later dynamic — she was too busy trying to exert control over Jess and herself to let Jess see how bad she was hurting. It’s understandable that Jess thinks everything comes to her so easily, even with this great failure.

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