Author: Megan McCafferty
Publisher: Three Rivers
Release Date: August 28th, 2001
When her best friend, Hope Weaver, moves away from Pineville, New Jersey, hyperobservant sixteen-year-old Jessica Darling is devastated. A fish out of water at school and a stranger at home, Jessica feels more lost than ever now that the only person with whom she could really communicate has gone. How is she supposed to deal with the boy- and shopping-crazy girls at school, her dad’s obsession with her track meets, her mother salivating over big sister Bethany’s lavish wedding, and her nonexistent love life?
With its witty narrative and refreshing voice, Sloppy Firsts is one of the most compelling and relatable depictions of average high school teendom.
Jessica Darling is a typical, run-of-the-mill New Jersey teenager. She's less than impressed with her peers and is pretty much bored with her lackluster life, but she has her best friend and soul sister Hope to share it all with, so it's not so bad. But then Hope moves away, leaving Jessica to deal with her worries alone. Factor in Jessica's loneliness with insomnia and the enigmatic Marcus Flutie, and she's in for an unforgettable year.
Jessica is the ultimate anti-hero. She's snarky and cynical and blunt, charming for the most part but at times just plain appalling; a nonconformist in essence but a conformist in practice. She's just as confused with adolescent woes as the next person and that causes her to make some questionable judgements, but her unique outlook on life and the fact that she owns up to her faults with such blatant honesty makes her endearing. Sure, she's not always lovable- there are times when she's plain unreasonable- but she's a solid protagonist through and through.
With that aside, some of the other characters are pretty flat. I get that they're supposed to be flat and portray the many sins everpresent in high school life, but there are times that they're just cliche and predictable. They remain a steady source of entertainment throughout the whole novel, but there's still a lot that could have been done with them and I'm interested in seeing the parts they play in the next installments.
There's one secondary character who stands out almost as much as Jessica does, though. Marcus Flutie. He's, well, a mystery, so much so that it's almost frustrating, but he's a force to be reckoned with in the novel. Besides the fact that he fills Jessica's thoughts so much that he's impossible to ignore, his entire existence is dazzling. He's the catalyst that provokes Jessica's life-altering actions in the story, and, quite frankly, the story wouldn't be nearly half as good without him.
The Jessica-Marcus pairing is, in one word, mystifying. It's random, unidentifiable, comes out of nowhere, goes away, lingers on, comes back suddenly and spreads like wildfire. It's as insane and complex as the two characters involved in it but it's strangely pleasant, and while Jessica and Marcus tread the very fine line between friendship and something more, rooting for them can't be helped- even though you don't really know what you're rooting for.
A novel spanning an entire year, Sloppy Firsts is a near-perfect portrayal of high school from the point of view of a cynically-charming, technophobic, antisocial, irreverent teenager. Laugh-out-loud funny and filled with tongue-in-cheek candor, Sloppy Firsts is a must-read.
note: I bought this copy of Sloppy Firsts.