Second Helpings & Charmed Thirds

A few months ago I read and absolutely fell in love with one Jessica Darling from Megan McCafferty's Sloppy Firsts. From page one, I fell in love with her humor, her sarcasm and of course her brains. And so I blithely tripped along to the library hoping for more of Jessica (and of course, Mr. Marcus Flutie). But then the unthinkable happened. I got bogged down in the middle of the series and really had a hard time continuing. But luckily I did. Very luckily in fact. Second Helpings and Charmed Thirds were really my Achilles heels in this series so I decided to do a double-mini review in hopes of off-setting some of my disappointment. 

Also, let's talk about these covers! I'm so in love with the titles first of all, but I'm also head over heels for those unique little objects on each cover that specifically relate to the story. The t-shirt, the postcard, etc. All very clever and intriguing.

***Just be warned - if you haven't read this series, there WILL BE SPOILERS. I hate to do that, but to talk about one book to the next, you gotta know the plot developments.

Annndddd.... here we go!

After learning of Marcus' betrayal and vowing to never speak his name again, Jessica prepares for her senior year by getting the heck out of by enrolling in a teenage writers camp called SPECIAL. SPECIAL doesn't really turn out to be the escape Jessica hopes. As if lusting after her writing mentor weren't enough, Jessica is now stuck for the next six weeks dealing with a bunch of hormone-crazed or suicidal teens she has nothing in common with. That is until she accidentally turns in her actual journal instead of her class-required journal for credit and her mentor is suitably impressed. Embarrassed by his praise but full of new ambitions for college and life after Pineville High, Jessica returns to face her senior year and the one boy she wishes she'd never laid eyes on. That is until he turns her world upside down. Again.

Since I fell hard and fast for practically every single thing about Sloppy Firsts I couldn't help but be a little disappointed with Second Helpings. There were tons of great things about this book - Jessica is dead-on with her descriptions of the sheer terror every teen faces in trying to decided what college to attend (I mean really, it's only your ENTIRE FUTURE we're talking about here people) and the odd, bittersweet goodbyes of any senior year. Every bit of that was totally relate-able and hilarious as always. It was Jessica's somewhat subtle change in tone and her sex-crazed mission that put me off this time. Instead of finding her voice snarky and irreverent, she became whiny and pessimistic and downright annoying. But that's not what really got me - it was her whole 'I'm not with Marcus, so I'm gonna be with somebody' motto that lead to her ill-advised quest to lose her virginity with Len. To be honest, I was actually a bit bored until Marcus entered the picture once again - so of course, I was delighted with the ending, it was just a lot of the details leading up to the big finale that left me with mixed feelings on this one.


Finally free of dull Pineville, Jessica makes her way to prestigious Columbia University full of wide-eyed enthusiasm. Well as much enthusiasm Jessica is capable of when her boyfriend Marcus is also heading off to college, just all the way across the country in California. And once again, Jessica, who over-thinks everything, begins to over-think their odd relationship. Especially after Marcus begins sending cryptic one-word postcards does she feel like losing her sanity. But financial and family troubles quickly send Jessica into college-overdrive mode and there isn't much room left in her life for anything else.

If I was mildly annoyed with Second Helpings, then Charmed Thirds frustrated me to no end. For the first half of the novel Jessica spends all her time complaining to Marcus that she doesn't want to be 'that girl' who doesn't have a life without her boyfriend (BUT SHE IS). And then the second half is spent complaining about their lack of communication - but doesn't really do anything about it - and that she's too poor. I had truly been looking forward to Jessica's descriptions of college life and the people she meets, yet Megan McCafferty completely blanks out that entire period of Jessica's life. Charmed Thirds covers her entire three years at Columbia yet never once do we hear about it. The narrative simply stops and starts around each school holiday break or return to Pineville. Not exactly what I was hoping for. 

Maybe it was the almost complete lack of Marcus in this installment but I also became seriously disillusioned with the Game Master. Perhaps it was Jessica's narrative influencing me, but I was so annoyed with his vow of silence and his choice to go to 'cowboy camp' that allowed him no outside contact for two years -- yet never having the decency to break up with Jessica. Grrr. I'm sorry, but little to no communication over an almost three year period does not a relationship make.

But don't worry, I'll be back in a couple of days with my thoughts on Fourth Comings (which are MUCH nicer, I promise!).

series reading order:
~ Sloppy Firsts - my review
~ Second Helpings
~ Charmed Thirds
~ Fourth Comings
~ Perfect Fifths

book source: my local library


Nomes said...

i loved reading your thoughts on these.

i bought sloppy firsts and thought it was just awesome.

then bought second helpings and was so surprised to find myself bored in it and not particularly hanging out to read it. it was such a let down.

my library doesn't have any so i've stopped with the series there :( i did pass my copies on though.

looking forward to what you think of the fourth one.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Not a bad tactic really...just get the icky stuff over with in one review! Sometimes I think with series, middle books are only a means to an end. Fillers. Which might account for your disappointment. Look forward to hearing about how the author turned it around in the fourth installment!

Angiegirl said...

I honestly could not get through this series. I felt bad at first because everyone and their GRANDMOTHER loves it to itty bitty pieces. But wow. The whine and the shallow got to me. Glad to hear you felt some frustration as well. And, amazingly, the vaunted Marcus Flutie just wasn't enough to keep me around.

Chachic said...

I actually felt the same way you did but I got frustrated with Charmed Thirds and it was downhill from there. I don't know why but I still loved Second Helpings. Maybe it was the YOU. YES. YOU. bit. I think I got attached to the series because Jessica felt like a peer - I read the first two books during my first year of college, the third book came out when I was in third or fourth year and the last one while I was already working. But I think I stopped liking Jessica by the third book. I just kept on reading because I wanted to know what happens next.

Michelle said...

Nomes - I hear you. #1 was great, but they sorta just went downhill from there.

Sandy - Yep. I was hoping to get all the disappointing stuff done and over with real quick, glad to see others liking the format.

Angie - Yes. Jessica's voice gets so grating - I totally understand why you stopped. Frankly, I wouldn't have continued if SO MANY people hadn't told me to keep reading. But Marcus? I liked him in #1 but at this point he simply bugs the heck out of me.

Chachic - I think that's totally reasonable. Personally, I think McCafferty should have stopped at book 2. But I can see why it'd be neat to sort of 'grow up' with Jessica. And hey - YOU are the reason I've kept reading these books!

Chachic said...

LOL feel free to stop then. :) I loved the story up until the second book. I think it's also a factor that I wasn't reading a lot of YA back then. Now that there are more books to be explored, I think my love for the series has dimmed.

Unknown said...

my favorites!!!


Michelle said...

Chachic - I actually already finished the series and am glad I did. But I see how if this had been one of your first exposures to YA it would have made a big impact.

notsoChiara - Glad to hear it!

Janicu said...

I stopped at book 2. Loved the first one, the second one.. I think it made me nervous and I was happy with how book 2 ended and I didn't want to see drama. So I cowardly just stopped. I don't know if I can read through three books of ups and downs before she and Marcus get it together or whatever. Unless someone tells me it's worth it, end of book 2: good place to be.