Review: Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty

Monday, May 19, 2014 6:15 PM
Title: Perfect Fifths
Author: Megan McCafferty
Published: April 14, 2009
Publisher: Crown
Series: Jessica Darling #5
Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Pages: 258
Source: Library
Rating: 2.5 stars
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*Warning: This book review contains spoilers for Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, Charmed Thirds and Fourth Comings*
“We just want to be where we're supposed to be. We just want to be with the people we want to be with. I don't think that's asking for too much, ya know what I'm saying?”
― Megan McCafferty, Perfect Fifths

Captivated readers have followed Jessica through every step and misstep: from her life as a tormented, tart-tongued teenager to her years as a college grad stumbling toward adulthood. Now a young professional in her mid-twenties, Jess is off to a Caribbean wedding. As she rushes to her gate at the airport, she literally runs into her former boyfriend, Marcus Flutie. It’s the first time she's seen him since she reluctantly turned down his marriage proposal three years earlier–and emotions run high.

Marcus and Jessica have both changed dramatically, yet their connection feels as familiar as ever. Is their reunion just a fluke or has fate orchestrated this collision of their lives once again?

Told partly from Marcus’s point of view, Perfect Fifths finally lets readers inside the mind of the one person who’s both troubled and titillated Jessica Darling for years. Expect nothing less than the satisfying conclusion fans have been waiting for, one perfect in its imperfection. . . (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
The Jessica Darling series has taken us on a long and eventful journey, detailing the young adult years of one Jessica Darling who we cannot help but love even with all her imperfections. From teen angst and first love to broken hearts and college graduate woes, we have witnessed all of Jessica's mistakes and triumphs, trials and comforts. Alongside Jessica, we have experienced the thrill of accomplishment, the sting of betrayal, and the unconditional love of true friends and family. Everything that has happened in the last four books has led to a single outcome, the strange but true reunion of Marcus and Jessica. Three years have passed since they parted ways, but have their feelings really changed? While Perfect Fifths gives readers some much-needed closure and a few touching scenes, it fell far short of my expectations.

If you took issue with the abbreviated timeline of Fourth Comings, Perfect Fifths takes it a step further. The events of Perfect Fifths take place in a mere 24 hours, a brief but momentous time period for both Jessica and Marcus. After literally running into each other in Newark Liberty International Airport, Marcus takes this collision as a fortuitous sign that they should reconnect, and he follows/stalks her until they end up in a Starbucks filling each other in on what has happened in the past three years, while avoiding more sensitive topics and the awkwardness of their situation for as long as possible. I found the shortened timeline intriguing but also rushed. Jam-packed with entirely too much material, the dialogue between Marcus and Jessica was often difficult to digest. In fact, I found myself rereading sections for fear of missing pertinent details. I was entertained by their witty banter, and I was happy to finally witness a prolonged discussion between these two after hearing so much about Marcus in previous installments. Yet I can't help but feel that their conversations were rambling at best and overdone at worst.

Ever since we first met Jessica in Sloppy Firsts, her story has featured a motley of characters, from her best friend Hope to the besotted ex-boyfriend Len Levy to her adorably outspoken niece Marin who mirrors her Aunt Jessica in both personality and spunk. Yes, all of these characters and more make a return appearance in Perfect Fifths. But unlike the previous books where they had a larger role, their presence in the final book is only a small piece interwoven into a long conversation shared between Marcus and Jessica. I found this development disheartening, considering the significant contributions Jessica's family and friends made in earlier installments. Instead of the usual touching, heartfelt tale of slow maturity and loving support in the face of hardship, Perfect Fifths read more like the script for a romantic comedy. The turbulent mess that was the romance between Marcus and Jessica was a major plot point before, but it never existed as the main focus. Even in Fourth Comings, when Jessica was trying to decide whether or not to marry Marcus, we also witnessed Jessica spending quality time with family and friends and discovering key parts of herself along the way. I believe that Jessica's interactions with her loved ones really brought the series to life, and as such, Perfect Fifths suffered in their absence.

Nevertheless, where Perfect Fifths truly differs from past installments is its narration. Previously, the Jessica Darling books shared Jessica's innermost thoughts through her journals. Since Fourth Comings, Jessica has given up her black composition notebook days, entering a world of professionalism dominated by laptops and spent in airplanes always headed to another destination. In Perfect Fifths, for the first time, events are told in first person present tense and the point of view switches between Marcus and Jessica. Up until this point, we learned of Marcus's thoughts and feelings from a secondhand source, Jessica. In Perfect Fifths, we are privy to Marcus's own private thoughts, peeling away his layers of mystery and making him less of an enigma. I certainly enjoyed discovering Marcus's mind and the reasoning or lack thereof of some of his decisions; his confessional nature and sincerity made him more 3-dimensional than Jessica's journal entries ever did.

Yet therein lies the problem. I don't believe Marcus should have existed for us outside of Jessica's journals, as this is Jessica's story to tell, not Marcus's. Hence the name of the series: Jessica Darling. While Marcus's perspective was informative, I found it entirely unnecessary. I never wanted to know what Marcus was thinking, or the rationalization behind his decisions. I certainly didn't need to know more about his best friend Natty or Marcus's philanthropic ventures, and I would have much rather concentrated on Jessica's and Marcus's rekindling romance from her side of the story. Don't get me wrong, I love Marcus, but his POV added nothing to the story that couldn't have been told by Jessica herself.

Regardless of the issues I found with Perfect Fifths, this book does inspire in me some nostalgic longing for the good old days of Jessica Darling. By that, I mean all those cherished moments we shared with Jessica through her diary entries: when she found her individual voice through the articles she wrote for The Seagull's Voice, the messy first kiss between her and Marcus in the bathroom of a funeral home, and all of the lovely conversations she shared with her loving father, mother and sister. It is the small things that truly stick out in Perfect Fifths, such as the constant reappearance of "The Showman of Our Time," the little coincidences that leave us wondering about how all the puzzle pieces fit together in the grand scheme of things. While I cannot believe that all of these events happened for the sole purpose of bringing Marcus and Jessica together when they could fully realize what they meant to each other, I can appreciate the Jessica Darling series for what it is: a fun-filled and emotional ride that, despite its choppy ending, will remain one of my favorite series.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree that the small things stuck out in this book - the references to the past which totally forced readers to tear up in nostalgia. While I didn't have too much of an issue with Marcus's PoV, I do think this might have been a stronger installment without it. For me, my biggest qualm with this novel was the fact that I never felt convinced that Marcus and Jessica would finally be in it together for the long haul. After all the issues brought up against Marcus in the previous installment -- a terribly convincing installment! -- this novel didn't erase those problems for me. Plus, like you said, it felt so far removed from the classic Jessica Darling tale since the large host of characters we're used to was so sadly absent. :/ Still, I adored the rest of this series and thankfully this didn't ruin the previous books in the least. Wonderful review, Courtney! :)


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