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Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty (thoughts)

March 28, 2012

From the author’s website:
Jessica Darling is up in arms again in this much-anticipated, hilarious sequel to Sloppy Firsts. This time, the hyperobservant, angst-ridden teenager is going through the social and emotional ordeal of her senior year at Pineville High. Not only does the mysterious and oh-so-compelling Marcus Flutie continue to distract Jessica, but her best friend, Hope, still lives in another state, and she can’t seem to escape the clutches of the Clueless Crew, her annoying so-called friends. To top it off, Jessica’s parents won’t get off her butt about choosing a college, and her sister Bethany’s pregnancy is causing a big stir in the Darling household.

We read Sloppy Firsts for book club this past month, and the most I could come up with upon finishing was “Well…. I didn’t not like it.” Not exactly a glowing review, I know. And yet, the morning after finishing, I put the next book on hold at the library. What can I say, I was still curious to find out what happens next in Jessica’s life. Plus I had heard that the series was better taken as a whole.

Oh dear, am I ever glad I went with that gut decision to read Second Helpings. I liked it so much more than Sloppy First. SO MUCH.

Jessica is still Jessica, still self-involved and complainy and makes unfortunate decisions. But she stands up for herself a bit more in Second Helpings and I loved each and every one of those scenes. She also has to deal with deeper issues this time around – grappling with 9/11, death, new life, and (as a senior, first and foremost) her own blank-slate of a future.

So, when you mention the Jessica Darling series to people who have read it (so, only people I know on the internet), there tends to be a chorus of “oooooh Marcus Flutie!”. I did not get that from Sloppy Firsts at all. It was more like “ugh Marcus Flutie.” I really didn’t understand his appeal and thought I was missing something – but no, it all happens in Second Helpings. And *sigh* it is wonderful and super gradual and gave me tingles. I am now part of the Marcus Flutie fan club and and more than tempted to get myself a Me. Yes. Me. t-shirt. But that wasn’t even what I liked most about the book, although it does tie in to what I liked most.

What did I like most? Let me try to break it down in to two pieces.

First off – Jessica’s growth. Jessica grows and matures in Second Helpings like crazy, but the speed of it doesn’t feel unnatural or forced. It’s the kind of growth that comes with finishing high school and coming face to face with ‘the rest of your life.’ It’s the kind that results from your world being rocked, of figuring out where you fit in this new reality and becoming comfortable with who you are. I think she grows more in the second half of Second Helpings than she did in the whole of the first book.

Secondly – Second Helpings really felt like part 2 of Sloppy Firsts. Not in that it was just a continuation of the first book – Second introduces a whole lot of new conflicts and issues – but it also resolves loose ends from the first book. Some are resolved early on, some aren’t resolved until the last page. But over all, I really liked how everything wrapped up at the end (although a couple things wrapped up a little too neatly). I would actually be okay with ending the series right here, partly because the ending was so satisfying, but also because I’m afraid that some of the wrapped up bits will become unwrapped as the series continues.

I could go on and on with what else I liked about this book – secondary characters given more depth (Bridget!), it was much funnier, the descriptions of high school and high school parties seemed ripped right out of movies like Ten Things I Hate About You and Can’t Hardly Wait (both of which I LOVE) – but I will stop here. I think just the fact that I’ve been able to write so much about this one while I struggled to write a single paragraph about Sloppy Firsts is a testament to how much more I liked it.

If you’ve read Sloppy Firsts and weren’t planning on giving the rest of the series a chance, I highly recommend reading at least this next one.
If you’ve read the rest of the series – should I continue on??

My rating: 9/10

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2012 5:49 pm

    I read the rest of the series. Charmed Thirds is pretty great. The Fourth one (forget the name!) was kind of eh…and Perfect Fifths just didn’t feel like our girl Jess anymore. But if you love her (I do!) you have to see her story to the end, right? Maybe get them out of the library.

    • March 28, 2012 9:07 pm

      Hmmm maybe I’ll at least read the third one. I’ve borrowed the first two from the library, so if I continue with the series I’ll definitely do the same for those. But I’m considering buying this one because I liked it so much I’m sure I’ll want to reread it sometime in the future.

  2. March 29, 2012 3:54 am

    I’ve heard a lot about this series but have never read it but it sounds like it’s up and down. Hm, it’s not calling my name.

  3. March 29, 2012 6:41 am

    I’d really like to try this series. Great review. I’m glad that you enjoyed it.

  4. March 29, 2012 7:51 pm

    Oh wow, I am SO happy I read your review! I really enjoyed Sloppy Firsts, but not enough to feel compelled to pick the second book right away. And I didn’t get the Marcus love, either. Reading that you had the same issues and liked this one better really makes me look forward to reading it!

  5. April 9, 2012 8:36 pm

    I felt exactly like you did after the first one, only I didn’t feel the need to read the second one. It’s good to know that if I ever feel the urge I won’t be disappointed.

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