Review: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty


May 18, 2012 by Heidi

Title: Sloppy Firsts [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Megan McCafferty [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: Book one in the Jessica Darling quintet.
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Published: August 28th, 2001 by Crown Publishing Group
Format: Kindle edition; 304 pages.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.

“My parents suck ass. Banning me from the phone and restricting my computer privileges are the most tyrannical parental gestures I can think of. Don’t they realize that Hope’s the only one who keeps me sane? … I don’t see how things could get any worse.”

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?

A fresh, funny, utterly compelling fiction debut by first-time novelist Megan McCafferty, Sloppy Firsts is an insightful, true-to-life look at Jessica’s predicament as she embarks on another year of teenage torment—from the dark days of Hope’s departure through her months as a type-A personality turned insomniac to her completely mixed-up feelings about Marcus Flutie, the intelligent and mysterious “Dreg” who works his way into her heart. Like a John Hughes for the twenty-first century, Megan McCafferty taps into the inherent humor and drama of the teen experience. This poignant, hilarious novel is sure to appeal to readers who are still going through it, as well as those who are grateful that they don’t have to go back and grow up all over again.

So I’m just going to lay it out there.  I have never been so sexually frustrated at the end of a book.  Ever.  Now maybe that’s a bit spoilery, but I don’t think it’s so bad considering this is a five book series and we know these things get drug out in a five book series.  But I’ve never read a contemporary series before; in the world of cliffhangers, Sloppy Firsts is far from the worst, but it was enough to make me die inside just a little and keep me up all night worrying about what’s going to happen to my new BFF Jessica.  Which brings me to my basic conclusion about Sloppy Firsts–I freaking loved it.

Now, I pretty much never read contemporary before this year.  Sure, maybe, if a book was renowned enough or I was required by some form of schooling, but I never really got into the genre.  I’m totally a fantasy girl, and spent the bulk of my library time growing up on the floor of that one aisle at my library combing through the Sci-Fi/Fantasy collection and ignoring all other forms of literature.  And I’m cool with that.  But just this once, I found myself wishing with every fiber of my being that I had read Sloppy Firsts as soon as it came out.  Not only can it easily be crowned my favorite contemporary YA ever, I just know this book would have spoken to teenage me like a lifeline of sanity (or mutual morbidity).

Dude, Jessica Darling is my homegirl.  And I would totally print that on a shirt and wear it.  Yeah she has her annoying quirks, like getting all giggly when she’s awkward or embarrassed, but for the most part she’s probably the fictional character I could most see myself being friends with in high school.  We both really hate weddings and just want to elope, we both didn’t bother buying yearbooks, we’re both phone phobic, goody-goody ‘smart’ kids, and we’re both pretty hyper aware of our own ridiculousness.  That doesn’t stop us from stressing to the point of physically harming our own bodies, being dramatic about our problems, and searching for pretty much any purchase in our home towns.  I love that Jessica is holding out for a guy who can be her best friend, that she so dutifully keeps up correspondence with Hope, and that she writes us her story in her journal.  Technically, that makes Sloppy Firsts an epistolary novel.  I like that, and felt that the journal entries were believable, but at the same time, it read more like a strait up novel to me than you often get with the epistolary format.

I got such a strong feel for all of the characters in this book.  Jessica struggles with relating to her parents, caring at all about her friends (whom she hates), dealing with her mad crush on senior who doesn’t know she exists, and a period that’s completely M.I.A. Of course my favorite character besides Jessica would have to be (you guessed it) Marcus Flutie.  I loved Marcus, because even though I’d seen people mention him before I read this book, he was so completely not what I expected.  In fact, more than anything, he reminds me of my own best guy friend from high school, right down to his woodsy-smoky smell, and I honest to God had ‘why was I just platonic with that guy again?’ thoughts.  Because, dear friends, Marcus Flutie is awesome.  Okay, he’s pretty weird and kind of a dick at times, but he’s also unexpected, quixotic, and pretty perfect for Jessica even if the world doesn’t see it.  

One of my favorite things about Sloppy Firsts was that the two most important and influential characters in Jessica’s life, Hope and Marcus, were more or less absent for the bulk of it.  In fact, Hope is physically nonexistence, and Jessica has a weird curiosity about Marcus that begins to border on an obsession she just can’t drop, so while he’s mentioned often, he’s not very frequent appearance-wise.  I found myself positively pining for more contact with this enigma of a character, while simultaneously loving how drawn out the relationship was.  Sloppy Firsts was, to me, an entirely realistic representation of life in high school, and I loved every agonizing second of it.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:  Okay, let me tell you, if I had had Second Helpings on hand, or if I hadn’t had to put myself on a wait list for the Kindle edition from Overdrive, I would have started it immediately.  And it was 2:00 am.  And I had to work in the morning.  I call that a sure thing.

Recommended for:  Absolutely anyone and everyone who enjoys contemporary YA.  I have to thank Forever YA for picking this as the March book club pick, or I never would have read it.

Real life repercussions of reading this book:  I have totally and irrevocably changed my opinion of contemporary YA.  It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed contemporary since I’ve been pushing myself to read more this year, but this is the first time I’ve ever been completely riveted and dying for more.

Get a second opinion:

Good Books and Good Wine
The Allure of Books
Love YA Lit

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  1. I keep hearing really great things about this book so I think I'm gonna have to read it even though I HATE the word 'Sloppy'. Urgh such a horrible, detestable word. I will overlook it for this book though :-) x

  2. Okay, I'm pulling this one off of my shelf RIGHT NOW. Like, I'm rearranging review books. I've heard everyone talk about this series and Jessica and Marcus forever but I've never read a more convincing review EVER. And you described yourself, and you are a lot like me apparently, so I'm thinking I might just like this one too. *crosses fingers for excellence today* I'll let you know, but I'm thinking you may have made my day, Bunbury.

  3. Kyle says:

    YAY SLOPPY FIRSTS!! I loved this one too! And like you, I am not usually one to love contemps, but yeah, I totally got Second Helpings immediately after finishing it. I'm definitely reading the rest this summer. Soooo glad I gave into peer pressure and finally read them!

  4. thegrownupya says:

    Forever YA is the reason I read this one too! I really did enjoy it and Marcus was fantastic… he gets even MORE fantastic in Second Helpings. :) And you're totally right about feeling so completely sexually frustrated at the end of this book. It's such a REAL feeling, which while it sucked, makes the ending fantastic.

  5. Heidi says:

    =D Yay! I really hope so Asheley. I'm so excited for you to read this one, seriously. I know you're new to contemp too, and this was THE one that really won me over. Can't wait to hear what you think!

  6. Heidi says:

    Hahaha, yeah, I swear the #1 complaint about this book is the title! Most people say it's very misleading though. Don't worry, you're not the only one who's been turned off by 'sloppy'.

  7. Heidi says:

    I know, right? I was so ready to ignore this one, but I had to pick it up for book club and now I GET IT! I hope to read the rest this summer too, although given the emotional wreck I become every time I pick one up, I may have to space them out a bit. Jessica reminds me so much of a young me, it's hard not to bear all of her anxiety.

  8. Heidi says:

    I know!! I loved it, and hated it so much at the same time. I think I actually liked Second Helpings a bit less because it didn't make me FEEL quite as much as Sloppy Firsts, but you're right, Marcus does get more fantastic!

  9. I, too, wish I'd read these books when they first came out! As much as I loved Jessica and Marcus, I think I would have loved them EVEN MORE if I was 16 or 17. After I finished this one, I picked up Second Helpings right away and spent all day Saturday reading it. Charmed Thirds is on my plate next and I hear it is intense. These books are so fun!

  10. Yay! I love reading reviews of this book (and series) not just because it is one of my favorites but that it's SO very cool to see people checking it out and getting excited over it just like I did:) Wait until you read Second Helpings, sigh. The Marcus Flutie factor is amped up like ten times:)

  11. This is the trillionth time I've heard of this series. Forever YA describes Marcus Flutie in a way that's… let's say, VERY stimulating. And I love the idea that this series spans so many years of Jessica's life. I'M READING THIS ASAP. Memorial break is upcoming so best believe I'm going to GET ON THAT.

  12. Heidi says:

    I know, right? And yes, I have learned a hard lesson about clearing a Saturday to read these. If I don't read them in one sitting, I can't sleep for all of the stress! I actually think I'm going to take a bit of a break before Charmed Thirds just to keep my heart rate down.

  13. Heidi says:

    I know, this was one of those series that I thought for sure had been hyped too much, and there was no way everyone could really love it that much. But it's so true! I totally fell for this one unexpectedly, and cannot wait to finish the whole series. Multiple people have said it's their favorite series ending of all time and I an't wait!

  14. Heidi says:

    Everything Forever YA has said about Marcus Flutie is true! I didn't believe it until I saw it with my own eyes, but it is. And yes, I love that this series goes through her life in college. I believe she initially was going to stop after Second Helpings (which goes through Jessica's high school life), but I'm glad to see she carries on! Seriously so excited to hear your thoughts on this one, Asher.

  15. MARCUS FLUTIEEEEEEE! AHHHH. I love love love him.And Jessica Darling? She is the best. I love her voice and her personality. And EVERYTHING.And the next books get even better, except I didn't love books 3 or 4. But 1, 2, and 5 are my favorites!

  16. Jasmine Rose says:

    I don't know how I've never noticed this before, but that little note under "a novel" is totally how my friend and I used to fold our notes. Random, I know :PHey nervous-giggly quirk reminds of how I used to smile like an idiot when I was embarrassed. I have no idea why smiling and embarrassment go together :PANYWHO, I'll definitely need to be reading this one soon. Fantastic review :D(Don't you just love weird, rambly comments from me? ;P)

  17. Melanie says:

    I just found (I seriously had to go searching) and started reading my copy of this, this weekend. I'm only a couple chapters in and I haven't quite *gotten* it yet, but I'm holding out hope. I think I'm going to like her sense of humor.

  18. Heidi says:

    Haha, good to know! I'm actually thinking of taking a bit of a break before I go on to book 3. Not sure why, just not feeling it even though I love the series. Really excited to get to the end of this series, but I'm nervous about the change in narrative for the 5th book. I'm sure I'll love it though since I <3 Marcus and Jessica so much!

  19. Heidi says:

    Haha, I'm glad to know people in real life really do smile like an idiot when embarrassed. I think I just blush big time. And it's not random, I folded notes like that too! It actually has an important roll in the story, which you'll get once you read it. :PYour rambly comments remind me of phone messages I used to get from my best friend, love them!

  20. Heidi says:

    I hope that you do end up liking it, Melanie! It's hard not to say this series is overhyped, I feel like everyone who's a fan loves it so much. If you end up not clicking though, that's totally cool.

  21. This came out the summer after I graduated from high school and some of my friends and I read it and ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT. We used to talk about how JD would totally be our best friend and how Marcus Flutie was to die for. You, yes, you:) I hope you get to book 2 soon if you haven't already. (I'm just catching up on all your reviews since I've been slacking!)

  22. Heidi says:

    Haha, no problem, I'm a total slacker too! You should know this by now as I always comment on your blog 2-5 days after posts. :PI HAVE gotten through book 2!!! I am loving this series, but I can't take the anxiety and nervous wreck I become while reading. Need a break before I hit book 3. But I can live off You. Yes. You. for quite some time.

  23. I absolutely loved this book too! I actually adore the way the second book ends, so I’ve never read beyond it because I’ve heard mixed things about the rest of the series…

    but as for this one? sexually frustrated is right!

    • Heidi says:

      It is SO frustrating! I have finished Second Helpings, and I agree, the ending is pretty great. From my understanding, McCafferty originally just had the duology planned before deciding to continue the series through Jessica’s college experience. I’ve heard mixed things as well, particularly about 3 and 4, but I’ve also heard multiple people say that it has one of the best series wrap-ups ever, so I’m sure I’ll read them eventually! Have to take a break for anxiety concerns though. 😛

  24. […] from my local library. Spoilers!: This review and Second Helpings contain all sorts of spoilers for Sloppy Firsts, so go read that […]

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.