Reviewed by Maggie: April 4, 2012
Published August 28, 2001 by Crown Publishing Group
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Megan McCafferty, you can't fool me. Sloppy Firsts isn't a work of fiction. It's McCafferty traveling back in time and stealing pages from my high school diary -- not the proper one I left behind for my mother and, okay, posterity because I had a heightened sense of self, but the real one I kept locked in my head, full of doubts, fears, hopes, wants, desires, and prejudices. And yes, those desires were sexual even if I was not at the time.
This is a book that I absolutely loved reading now and would've loved reading then. From the time Jessica Darling thinks "Manda thinks that reading feminist manifestos makes up for her borderline ho-bag behavior" and refers to her as "The Headmaster" on page ten, I knew I was in book love. MASH and Saved by the Bell references cemented it. I don't know if I said the exact things Jessica says, but I could have said them. McCafferty just nails Jessica's voice.
So what's it about? ME!!
Kidding. Although that was one of my reactions while reading.
It's about 16-year-old Jessica Darling, the brunette sheep of the family. She's always felt left out of her blonde sister and mother's golden circle of Stepford perfection. Her father though has always supported her, or rather, he's always supported her running track. Like most girls her age, her real source of support is her best friend, Hope. Unfortunately, Hope's family has just moved back to Tennessee. This leaves Jessica socially adrift but not totally outcast during her vital sophomore year. Every year was vital according to my mother, but I digress. Jess is in love with Paul Parlipiano, who obviously doesn't know she exists, but that's a minor concern. A bigger problem is that she hasn't gotten her period in months.
This is one of the areas in which this book would've been such a comfort to the teen me. I skipped my period all the time, but during 11th grade (or Year 11 -- hi, Aussie friends!), I didn't get my period from September to December and January to June. Same for 12th grade. I realized it after the fact, but I was so stressed during the school year that it basically stopped my cycle. It came back with a vengeance in the summer though. Of course I didn't tell my parents about it even though I was convinced my ovaries were dying and it was stressing me out even more. My best friends were who I went to, for this and everything.
Jessica no longer has her best friend close by and is limited to one 60 minute phone call a week and daily emails. This is where the generation divide shows because there are certain things, like her cycle, that Jessica doesn't discuss with Hope over email. Nowadays, email and text are the standard methods of communication, even for friends who aren't separated by distance, and I'd venture to say that there are less off-limit topics.
In her perpetual state of PMS, Jessica's sarcasm catches the eye of class dreg Marcus Flutie, or as I refer to him, Marcus fucking Flutie. I won't even talk about his appearance. (Noelle, you think a ponytail is bad? Try RED DREADS.) Marcus fucking Flutie is THAT guy -- the one who thinks he is too cool for school, but also God's gift. Think an unattractive Jordan Catalano. Sorry, I can't get over the dreads. Now instead of being illiterate, imagine if Jordan Catalano was secretly a genius.
Jordan Catalano - his attractiveness + a genius IQ
Do you know what that equals? Jess Mariano, or as I refer to him, Jess fucking Mariano. I couldn't stand him. He's the guy who not only thinks he's cooler and smarter than everybody else, but also wholeheartedly believes it to be true. Everything is about him, unless he decides that a girl is temporarily worthy. Even the girl in question is a reflection of his ego because it's about getting her.
Before reading Sloppy Firsts, I remember seeing Marcus Flutie's name on lists for Top YA Guys -- alongside the likes of Jonah Griggs, Tom Mackee, and Adam Wilde. AS IF! The girl in my book club who was gushing about Marcus Flutie when the book club pick was announced was suspiciously absent the night we discussed this book. I love my book club because we have differing opinions (ex: I hated Miss Peregrine, some loved it, some were indifferent), but 8 out of 8 girls had the same reaction to him: Marcus FUCKING Flutie! However, what I loved about Marcus was how Jessica reacted to him, and how that changed in the beginning, middle, and end of the book. Like the rest of the book, it felt honest.
Sloppy Firsts is a book that effortlessly takes you back to high school. Luckily, Jessica will make you laugh much more this time around.
Rating: 4/5 stars.