Tag Archives: Anna

Why I Love Jessica Darling

Writing this blog, dissecting each section and chapter and character and choice, has often brought out what I don’t like about Jessica Darling.  Sometimes it highlighted what I didn’t like about Megan McCafferty’s writing choices, but usually just what I didn’t like about Jessica.  As much as I love her, she can really annoy me.  McCafferty has even admitted that the longer she wrote Jessica, the more the character became completely separate from the author, to the point where McCafferty would cringe as she wrote out her reactions and decisions.  But, what I’m trying to say, is that maybe this blog was too harsh in pointing out what I didn’t like about Jessica Darling, when, really, I love her, and the series, so very much.  So, below are the top five things I love about Jessica Darling, one chosen from each of the five novels of the serious.

1.  Jessica’s Job (Perfect Fifths)

Jessica travels to high schools, where she helps teenage girls find their voices and deal with various issues through writing.  Could you make up a better job if you tried?  I would take this job, even with all of the travel, in a second.  

2.  Jessica’s friendship with Bridget (Fourth Comings)

As Emily and I have been saying for weeks and months, Bridget is the best, best, best.  It’s no surprise that Bridget and Jessica’s brunch, and Jessica’s description of their singular and important friendship, is our favorite part of this novel.  

3.  Jessica’s flaws (Charmed Thirds)

I really like that Jessica is flawed.  Yes, it’s very frustrating to read and experience these flaws.  But it’s also refreshing to see someone not be perfect or even great and have people still love her and depend on her and respect her.  Not only is she not perfect, she doesn’t strive to be perfect.  Jessica has always reminded me of Jo from Little Women, but Jo always agonized the ways in which she was too loud or pushy or impatient.  Jessica just accepts her flaws, and I love that about her.

2.  Jessica being You, Yes, You (Second Helpings)

Jessica and Marcus.  I LOOOOVE Jessica and Marcus.  Marcus was exactly the guy I had all of my crushes on in high school and college.  And now, probably.  I love reading books that make me swoon, and Jessica and Marcus make me swoon all the time, especially in Second Helpings.  

1.  Jessica hates high school (Sloppy Firsts)

The first time that I read Sloppy Firsts was when I was in the middle of high school and I was moody and angry and liked my friends, but didn’t like my friends.  I knew I didn’t want to spend anymore time that I had to living in my hometown.  I longed for everything to be different.  I saw so much of myself in Jessica, and it was so refreshing to read that although some things got better, she didn’t change her feelings completely.  And, most of all, I love that part of the reason that things get a little better is that she finds her voice as a writer, even if — or especially since — her writing mostly complains about high school.

I love reading about our favorite moody, stubborn, insensitive girl and I loved writing about her.  Emily and I have decided to continue this project, even though the series is over, with a new blog, where we will read the novels of Rainbow Rowell.  She is one of our favorite writers, and it seemed like everyone fell in love with her this year, with the publishing of her second and third novels, Eleanor and Park and Fangirl.  Like Megan McCafferty, she writes about imperfect female protagonists, complicated and wonderful female friendships, young women finding their voices, and the swooniest of men.  If you haven’t read any of her novels, immediately get them from the library (or buy them, I guess), so you can read along with us.  We’ll post a link to this website once the new blog is up and running.  Until then, thanks for reading all of the Jessica Darling series with us.  And, thanks, Emily, for being so patient with me when I would forget to post. I might secretly and actually think that “Crocodile Lies” is a terrible song, but I want to sing it to all of you.



Part Four: Enduring (Lasting) — the Forever Fantasy

I flew home very early on Wednesday morning, was late to the airport, almost missing my flight.  I forgot to pack Perfect Fifths.  I forgot to reread the chapter right before I left.  And then I forgot to write this post for two days.  It’s been very, very Jessica Darling of me.  But now, finally, I’m ready to discuss the final part of final book of one of my favorite series of all time.  Actually, it is my favorite series of all time.  But more on that later, probably.  

The last section of Perfect Fifths isn’t my favorite, despite trying its hardest to be.  Marcus Flutie stroking himself in the shower while thinking about Jessica?  Dyinggggg.  Finally getting the full story of the cougar, who I would LOVE to know more about?  Amazing.  But, like Emily mentioned, they spend so much time apart.  I like Jessica and Marcus together, not quite getting it right.  I like watching them try to navigate how excited and how terrified they are to be sitting across from each other at a small Starbucks table.  Those conversations seem real, but then we went on our whimsical journal through haikus and ended up in a fantasy.

I’m not complaining, of course.  I want desperately for Jessica and Marcus to end up together.  I want to finally hear all of the wonderful things we never heard Marcus say about Jessica, especially in those difficult college years.  I want to know that Jessica made the right decision in turning Marcus down when it didn’t feel right.  I want to know that her job is fulfilling, that her future is certain.  Megan McCafferty loves all of us, I’m certain of it, because she gives us all of this.  Anyone who has ever really like someone but felt like they just couldn’t get it right, longs for an ending exactly like this.  Jessica and Marcus will be together, and they will be together in New York City, Jessica’s city.  Yes, it’s possible that there was sacrifice on Marcus’s part for this to happen.  He may have chosen Columbia in hopes of running into Jessica, but for our girl, and for us, its just appearing, already perfect.  

Things I would text Emily about if we weren’t writing this blog:

I also really don’t care about Jessica’s dreams.

I love Bethany’s story.  E-car Jerry!  The best.

Something I’ve never been on board with (much like the haikus) was the Barry Manilow stuff.  I get why McCafferty is throwing all of this into the next novel, but it’s just seems to take away from what I really want to know about.  

If you liked that, try this: 

One of my favorite love stories about people clearly meant to be but often pulled apart by growing up and growing apart but (spoiler alert) ending up together is in the middle of a beautiful and quiet story about football in a small Texas town.  Friday Night Lights is one of the best shows and one of my favorite shows, and I can’t believe I didn’t recommend it sooner.  Jessica, in her job, surely wants to be Tami Taylor, and Jessica and Marcus are like a more-dramatic Julie and Matt Saracen.  Watch it, watch it, watch it!  All five season are on Netflix.  

Part 3 — Enduring (Putting Up With): Putting Up With, Indeed

I think Emily said it all, and said it so very poetically, in her last post: these haikus are bringing up the past that they couldn’t bring up in their Starbucks small talk.  Marcus claims that he prefers these poems to that conversation, but — really?  I don’t buy it.  I think that Megan McCafferty wanted to fill this book full of moments and memories from their relationship in the last four, which we all obviously love, but I just don’t think that they would write these haikus to each other.  

Doesn’t Marcus seem a little embarrassed about his 19 and 20 year self?  Do you think he would want to revisit it?  Doesn’t Jessica strain to avoid anything too emotional?  Why would she bring up this form of communication that has so much meaning?  Can you even imagine taking a hotel shuttle and watching two people write haikus back and forth?  How long does this shuttle take?  Why are they taking the time to roman numeral them?  

Perhaps it’s just because it’s the end of the semester and I’m tired and cranky, but I would have rather have skipped this section and started again at the hotel.  

Part Two — During: You were always bad at lying

Emily, like you, I often have trouble determining who is talking, especially when I start reading too quickly, but then once I take a step back and think about what they are saying, it seems so very obvious.  On rereading this, the differences between Jessica’s and Marcus’s motives in the conversation become quite clear.  Jessica is trying to hold herself together and to keep Marcus out.  Marcus is trying to not open up and let Jessica in wholly and completely.  He edits stories when he’s worried that she’ll realize too much and become freaked out — these realizations often have to do with her.  Jessica edits stories when she worries that Marcus will learn too much.  She’s not thinking about how her life affects his; she’s thinking about herself and the way that he always affects her.  She doesn’t want to let him in because she knows what can happen when she does.  He, remembering the power of this, too, exercises similar restraint.  Their conversations is full of false starts.  I always remember this part as an awkward beginning before a strong and easy connection, but that’s not the way it happens.  

I was also thinking about what you had mentioned about high school — Marcus doesn’t remember what Jessica does, suggesting that maybe she had reread her journals.  But Jessica doesn’t understand why she should guess Marcus’s major when he is so great at guessing her job.  In accordance with their different motives, Jessica has kept Marcus in her past, dwelling on what was.  Marcus imagines Jessica in the present, thinking about what is now.  Jessica guards herself because she so clearly remembers the pain.  So, maybe, like Marcus, we can forgive her for her terrible fake cramps?  Maybe.

If you liked that, try this: 

If you enjoy difficult yet rewarding conversations between two people who loved each but then had to leave each other, maybe to be together again, maybe to not be, then you absolutely must watch The Way We Were.  Robert Redford is a handsome, carefree man for whom things come easily.  Barbra Streisand is a fierce socialist who takes things too seriously.  They fall in love, but keep being pulled apart.  Guaranteed to make you cry and constantly imagine the situation when you could so confidently and elegantly swipe hair off of your ex’s face and say, just, “Your girl is lovely, Hubbel,” before walking away forever.

Part One: Before — Remember How You Were?

It’s very fitting that Emily’s post was partly an ode to Natty because he’s someone who I think is very important to this novel.  Here, finally, not only do we get Marcus’s perspective, but we get his feelings.  If you know me, then you know I’m a girl who loves feelings.  I love journaling about them, I love talking about them, I love using the phrase “I have a lot of feelings about this.”  Marcus is not this kind of boy.  When Jessica cheats on him in Charmed Thirds, she’s upset because of his lack of emotions.  When he gives the journals back in Fourth Comings, his letter to Jessica is clearly heartfelt, but it also seems controlled.  He refrained from annotating the texts, just as he refrains from dwelling over her words.  Part of his overall zen-ness is a balanced and calm understanding of his own thoughts and actions and acceptance of others.  Although there are of course many advantages to this, one of the downsides is what feels like a lack of genuine emotion.  Finally, here we get it.

Of course, we get these emotions secondhand.  It is Natty who reminds Marcus — and, by extension, us — of the way he mourned Jessica after she turned down his proposal and broke up with him.  Natty tells us how he couldn’t shower, how he was devastated.  Of course we knew that Marcus loved Jessica.  But we knew it because of the way he was happy, of the way he was persistent and the way he made heartfelt, grand gestures.  Maybe it’s just because of my own tendency to cry and journal about absolutely everything, but knowing how sad Marcus was felt very important to me.  We always knew that Marcus, or the lack of Marcus, could destroy Jessica.  Now we know Jessica held the same power over him.  Perfect Fifths starts on an equal playing field, and I love that.  

Things i would text Emily about if we weren’t writing this blog: 

I’m always so embarrassed for Jessica when she lies about having her period.  She does a terrible job with it, and it draws more attention to idea of sex, having it and not having it, then not saying anything would.

I don’t know if you knew this, but Megan McCafferty once wrote on her blog, or maybe on the news section of her website, about how she wasn’t sure what her fifth book would be or if she would have one — I remember her once saying something about a 10-year reunion — but that she heard of a rumor about a Breakfast Club sequel where the characters were trapped in an airport.  And that’s when she immediately knew what this novel would be.  Love it!  

If you liked that, try this: 

My post is so late because I’ve been distracted by being home on Thanksgiving Break, so I’m going to recommend the book that I read over break: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan.  This novel is narrated by a Greek chorus of a generation of gay men who died of AIDS as they watch the sometimes overlapping stories of young gay men, including two ex-boyfriends who attempt to break the world record for kissing.  Speaking of emotions, I cried all over this story.  

Fourth Comings: What Ifs

This novel hinged on Jessica making a decision: would she say yes to marrying Marcus or would she turn him down, breaking up with the man who was finally, and somewhat permanently, back in her life.  So, I thought in this wrap-up, we could play a small game of What If.

What if Jessica had said yes

What would this novel look like if, immediately after the proposal, Jessica had said yes with Marcus kneeling naked on the floor of his dorm room?  The rest of the week would chronicle her move out of her apartment and into Princeton.  She’d write the journals as a way to remind herself everything she had to ask and tell Marcus about when he returned from his retreat.  They would chronicle her fight with her roommates about her bailing on rent, her finding a one-bedroom apartment a half of a mile from campus, and her decision to continue working at True while perusing a Masters degree.  Hope would agree to be her Maid of Honor, but during the wedding planning process would be in the same room as Jessica and Mrs. Flutie, and then the truth about the childhood love, the break-up conversation, and everything else about Hope and Marcus’s relationship would come out.  Because she was already stressed about planning the wedding her mother insisted on having (which she agreed to partly because she couldn’t disappoint her niece/flower girl), Jessica blows up at everyone in the room, throwing the ring and storming out.  She keeps their Princeton apartment because while living there, since she had already started working on her Masters, and the TA money was kind of nice.  With Marcus as not just an ex-boyfrined, but an ex-fiance, Jess assumes they are over for good.  She throws herself into a relationship with an older, pretentious philosophy professor, who never wants to marry.  They move in together the following summer.

What if Hope had told Jessica about her conversation with Marcus

and, of course, she also would have told her about their shared past.  Jessica would be furious, but would place all of her anger on Hope, storming out of their apartment.  She would cancel her trip to see Marcus, feeling not in control of the situation.  Instead, she would seek solace at Bethany’s house, where she was still the single girl with the great stories.  Jessica continues to stay at their beautiful apartment until she is Marin’s full-time, live-in nanny.  One night after drinking too much white wine with Bethany, she drunk dials both Hope and Marcus to break up with each of them over the phone.  Eventually, Bridget and Percy come to save her from herself, as they often must.  

What  if Jessica and Marcus had broke up in his dorm room 

and Jessica returned home to the apartment, so devastated that no one mentioned the bet and she never found out about Hope and Marcus’s shared past.  Jessica would not really be able to let go of Marcus, like she hadn’t years earlier, and obsessively check the Princeton newspaper for photos of him and try to eavesdrop on 18-year-olds in the city who looked like they may have taken the train in for the weekend.  Hope would confront her about this months later, and assure Jessica that Marcus, too, wanted to break up, hoping that the information would allow Jess to move on.  Instead, Jessica feels the break-up all over again and lashes out at Hope, causing the worst fight that they have ever had and prompting Jessica to move in with her now close friend and business partner, Cynthia.  The heiress enjoys the company in her expansive apartment, but feels sorry for her sad roommate who seems disappointed everyday when the mail comes and there is no postcard for her.  

But what really happens to Jessica and Marcus after he returns the notebooks?  We’ll start thinking about that on Monday with Emily’s first post on Perfect Fifths

Saturday: A Response

Dear Emily,

I never considered that we already know Jessica’s answer, since she wouldn’t need to give Marcus her journals if her answer was yes, but you’re absolutely right.  Your observation reminds me of a story  — just as Jessica’s does for Marcus.  I don’t know if you’ve ever read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood but it’s a dystopian novel that ends (spoiler alert) with the reveal that the story of the novel was collected and preserved as a relic from a past society.  Atwood said that she included this ending to give her readers hope — if that story was a relic from the past, then the present was quite different.  She was inspired, she claimed in an interview I read, by the newspeak glossary in the back of 1984.  Similarly, she noted, one would only need a glossary to explain newspeak if it was no longer the dominate language.  Marcus gives the journals back to Jessica because he thinks they rightfully belong to her, but maybe also because he doesn’t need them.  If he thought they were the last words he would hear from someone he loved, do you think he would return them?  Looking back, I’m positive he wouldn’t.  He’s letting go, but I don’t think he’s giving up.  And even though I don’t think she had definite plans for a fifth novel at the end she wrote this, I don’t McCafferty wanted us to, either.