Tag Archives: reread

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.

 

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Wrapping It Up

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year’s!  To celebrate making it through all of the Jessica Darling novels, I thought I would recap some of my most and least favorite parts of every book. Let’s start with the worst.

The Worst

  • Sloppy Firsts—I can’t handle it when Jessica embarrasses herself by puking on Paul Parlipiano’s shoes. It’s just so mortifying!
  • Second Helpings—But nothing is as embarrassing as Jess mistaking Len Levy for a new student. THEY’VE HAD CLASSES TOGETHER SINCE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL! I can’t even. I think it says a lot about Len’s standards that he still wants to date Jess after that.
  • Charmed Thirds—I think it’s safe to say that most of this book is my least favorite—Jess wasting time with Marcus on her underwhelming internship at True, cheating on Marcus with the GOPunk, Jess always being so mean to her mom, and her inability to maintain friendships.
  • Fourth Comings—This book is the only one where Hope has a significant day-to-day presence in Jessica’s life, but I don’t come away from this book feeling like I have a better understanding of their relationship or why Hope is the best.
  • Perfect Fifths—I’m not into Jessica’s dreams. I get that McCafferty wants to give Jess and Marcus time apart so they can both process everything that happens. It even makes sense that Jessica would fall asleep. I just rarely find dreams in fiction to be meaningful or well executed.

 The Best

  • Sloppy Firsts—There are so many good things! Jessica outing all of the Clueless Crew’s secrets in the cafeteria! The Dannon incident! Marcus and Jessica’s late night phone calls!
  • Second Helpings—Though I love everything about You Yes You, my favorite part is when Jess and Marcus make out in the bathroom at Gladdie’s wake. It’s so messy and perfect. Of course a very pregnant Bethany would interrupt them. I love that Jessica tries to come up with an improbable escape route, while Marcus coolly walks her out. The description of Marcus looking like he’s been sucking on a pork chop is genius. It’s probably my favorite moment in the whole series.
  • Charmed Thirds—Though I’m not a huge Kieran fan, the Winter of Our Discontents is my favorite part. It’s the only time Jess has a community in Charmed Thirds. And there’s some quality Percy and Bridget time!
  • Fourth Comings—Obviously my favorite part of this book is Jessica and Bridget’s brunch!  It’s so great when Jess actually acknowledges the importance of her friendship with Bridget (as Anna and I have been yelling about all along).
  • Perfect Fifths—As cheesy as it is, I love Marcus and Jessica’s karaoke performance.

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 Four—Enduring (Lasting): Looks Like We Made It

I can hardly believe it. We’ve reached the end. And we all know what that means: the Marcus Flutie shower scene. As with the end of Second Helpings, I can’t even begin to talk analytically about the last section of Perfect Fifths, so a bulleted list it is!

  • They’re both so suspicious of each other!
  • Obviously Manda had to get one last pseudo-feminist rant in, ugh.
  • Of course Marcus is the one doing the striptease. And while Marcus is busy lasso-dicking, Jess falls asleep. What better way to say I don’t have time for games?
  • I’m so glad that “ten inches of New Jersey Whitesnake” makes a come back.
  • Greta sounds insufferable, but of course Marcus got cougared. And Older Women, Younger Men: A Cross-Cultural Exploration of Cougars Through the Ages is an excellent title. It’s so creepily maternal that she would wash him.
  • I really don’t care about Jessica’s dreams. They feel like filler.
  • Amber is the best. I love how Jessica understands girls well enough to know that she shouldn’t mention her connection to the founder of Be You Tea Shoppe without having something cool to back it up, but Marcus just fumbles to relate. What an inadvertent creep.
  • I always forget how much time they spend apart, or at least how much time is devoted to it in this section.
  • That gift shop clerk is comedy gold.
  • It’s so weird to read this novel and be older than Jessica Darling.
  • “I’m a person! Not a musical instrument!”
  • People always react to Marcus in the most hilarious ways, especially the Fanilows.
  • I love imagining Bridget, Percy, and Hope getting the video of Marcus’s wonderfully sincere performance.
  • Obviously their transcendent karaoke performance can only be improved upon by listening to the original as you read about it.
  • It’s always refreshing to see how un-smooth Marcus can be.
  • Now that Jess and Marcus will be in grad school at the same time, they’ll finally be in synch (*NSYNC?)!

Part 3—Enduring (Putting up with): Truth and Dare

Jess and Marcus write
Senryu/Haiku (whatever)
Forever delayed

They pass the notebook
Punctuation and spaces say
More than words allow

Revisiting past
Triumphs (you yes you), ripping
Open old (cheating) wounds

It always comes back
To sex. Will they? Won’t they? Truth
And dare. All or nothing.

Writing senryu
Is harder than it would seem.
Tally Hall agrees.

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 Two—During: Let’s Blame it on Byron

In the second section of Perfect Fifths, McCafferty gives us Marcus and Jessica’s unfiltered conversation, without the clutter of internal thoughts and second-guesses. After so much time spent apart in Charmed Thirds and Fourth Comings, so much uninterrupted dialogue between Jess and Marcus is refreshing. Clever banter during late-night phone calls brings Marcus and Jessica together in Sloppy Firsts, so it’s fitting that this exchange takes up a significant chunk of Perfect Fifths. But this conversation does not rely on Marcus providing a strange fact to prompt discussion, Marcus and Jessica now have a shared past and plenty of catching up to do.

I always find it surprising when Marcus doesn’t remember something about Jess’s past. He managed to remember details from conversations he overheard between Jessica and Hope when he was in a drug-addled stupor, but he can’t remember when Jess went to SPECIAL or their conversation outside Brandi’s office. The tongue kissing cousins conversation seems like such vital moment in the story of Marcus and Jessica, it’s astounding that Marcus has no recollection of it. Jessica claims that she only remembers this interaction because it was the first time she wrote about Marcus in her journal, which makes me wonder if she goes back and rereads her journals, or if the act of writing it down made it more memorable.

Stray Observations

  • Sometimes I have so much trouble keeping track of who’s talking.
  • Why is Jessica so reluctant to tell the story about Sunny?
  • I love that when Jessica exclaims “My high school crush-to-end-all-crushes almost had man sex with my ex,” (97), all Marcus can do is protest “almost?” (98).
  • Jessica’s clumsy attempt of faking her period is so hard to read! A “menstral tsunami in [her] uterous” (101), seriously? So embarrassing.

Though The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith doesn’t take place entirely in an airport, that’s where Hadley and Oliver meet-cute. Like Jessica, Hadley misses her flight and may not make it to a wedding—her father’s wedding to a woman she’s never met. She and Oliver start chatting in the waiting area and end up sitting next to each other on the flight to London and talking the whole way there. But what happens once they get off the plane?