Author: Megan McCafferty
Published: April 22, 2003
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Series: Jessica Darling #2
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
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*Warning: This book review contains spoilers for Sloppy Firsts*
“We are perfect in our imperfection.”My Thoughts
― Megan McCafferty, Second Helpings
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.
With keen intelligence, sardonic wit, and ingenious comedic timing, Megan McCafferty again re-creates the tumultuous world of today’s fast-moving and sophisticated teens.(Goodreads)
When I first heard about the enigma that is Jessica Darling, I was skeptical. I've never been one for high school drama or angst-ridden, hormonal teens obsessing over bodily image and the sexual activity of their classmates. Who wants to revisit the dreadful insecurities and stress of our high school years? So I was shocked when I finished Sloppy Firsts and realized that I was hooked. Second Helpings was no exception, and I actually found myself enjoying the sequel more. This book was jam-packed with exciting developments that had me frantically turning the pages to find out what happens next.
Jessica Darling was just as saucy and hilarious as ever, and my love for her only increased after reading Second Helpings. Jessica proved she is far from a spineless coward, as she threw out comebacks so quickly that I almost got whiplash. She endures some humiliating moments in this book, and I sympathized. But she's only down for a short time before she pops back up stronger than ever. She may be judgmental and slightly bitchy at times, but I understand that she is a teenager and high school can be brutal, especially since cattiness levels are at an all time high. And as Jessica realizes in Second Helpings, superficiality is all she has ever known. Her perception on everything is limited because she has never really stepped outside of her small town. Suburban life and Pineville High are all the experience she has under her belt, and once she understands this, she tries to expand her horizons. I think that Jessica has come a long way since the beginning of this series, and I'm eager to see her mature even more as it continues.
The secondary characters may hang on the sidelines, but they're far from insignificant. In Second Helpings, some familiar faces return. Bridget and Pepe were personal favorites of mine. They play a much larger role in Second Helpings, and McCafferty offers rich characterization for both of them. Bridget is more fleshed out, and I came to realize she is much more than a stereotypical blond bimbo. She is actually quite perceptive and acts as a sort of best friend substitute in Hope's absence. We also learn more about Hope, and it is evident why Jessica highly values their friendship. Hope gets Jessica; she knows how to handle Jessica's obsessive tendencies and she is Jessica's rock. It is so refreshing to see a close friendship highlighted in a genre where romance is more often than not the main focus.
Then there's Marcus. Marcus Flutie. If none of the reasons I listed above have convinced you to give Second Helpings a chance, this one should be the most persuasive of all. I may have had some doubts in Sloppy Firsts about how right Marcus is for Jessica, but they were all dispelled in Second Helpings. It is clearer than ever that Marcus and Jessica are a perfect match. Besides Hope, Marcus is the only other soul who seems to truly get Jessica. He understands her quirks, as he has quite a few of his own, being a nonconformist and all. These two teenagers, with their insanely high GPAs and unique outlook on the world, couldn't have been more suited for each other if it was a match made in heaven. Plus, Marcus just sounds adorable, and he is willing to move on from his troubled past and make a new name for himself. These two kids better work out.
While Jessica's amusing narration begs for an accompanying laugh track, there are many serious moments in Second Helpings. Jessica's last year as a high schooler is far from perfect, and she must overcome many hurdles before reaching the finish line (I had to add that metaphor because she is a runner). Yet these ordeals help Jessica to become the person she wants to be and to reach the goals she is aiming for. And she isn't alone in her suffering. As she encounters new obstacles, she finds unexpected support from friends that have been trying to reach out to her for awhile. I cannot wait to see how these various relationships evolve, especially since Jessica has finally allowed herself to open up to others besides Hope.
Second Helpings was a wonderful read that I highly recommend to all. McCafferty skillfully mixes humor into the emotional turmoil that is Jessica's life, so that the reader can close the book with a smile while at the same time they take away an important message on discovering yourself in the most unexpected ways.