Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty is a young adult, romance fiction novel about a 16 year old high schooler named Jessica Darling. She has an older sister, Bethany, who is getting married to some rich guy. Jessica and Bethany aren’t very close and planning Bethany’s wedding takes up the majority of Jess and Bethany’s mother’s time and attention. When the novel begins, Jess tells us that her best friend, Hope, has moved away recently, that she misses her very much, and that they’ve agreed to write to each other once a month (they email once a day, but also write letters). The entire story is told from Jess’ point-of-view. Jess explains that she doesn’t really care for any of her remaining friends at school and that Hope was the one friend she spent all of her time with. Jessica is on the track team and loves to run. She’s actually good at it and has placed in state and national competitions. She mentions (numerous times) how her father is constantly reminding her of her loss to another girl at a previous meet when she goes for runs around the neighborhood which annoys her.
Jess is finishing up her junior year in high school and this is where she walks us through the group of girls she calls friends and whom she (and Hope) lovingly refer to as the “Clueless Crew”:
- Bridget – Jess describes her as beautiful and her first best friend; they eventually met Hope and the other members of the crew which is how Jess and Hope met.
- Manda – apparently, this girl will blow any guy that will let her although she does identify targets at times; this also appears to be a well-known secret around the school.
- Sara – She is a cheerleader like the rest of them, is always looking for clues or getting the latest gossip of what’s happening around the school.
She also mentions her former boyfriend and long-time friend, Scotty, who is on the football team, described as good-looking and well-liked by his peers. Jess writes in her journal about how Scotty told Hope – before she left – that he still likes Jess which makes her a little nervous or uncomfortable around him because she doesn’t share his feelings. Although Jess says she’s not interested in dating Scotty and that she doesn’t want to be his girlfriend, sometimes it’s hard to tell. There’s the senior that Jess has a crush on, Paul Parlipiano; there is this new girl who transferred from some private school in New York named Hy and lastly, there is Marcus Flutie who is described as a “dreg” because he sells drugs and does other questionable things. Hy immediately joins the Clueless Crew’s group, but becomes friends with Jess and seems to understand her better than the others. They spend some time together outside of school, but that doesn’t last long.
One day, Jess isn’t feeling well at school and ends up in one of the nurse’s rooms at school to lay down; while she’s in there, Marcus Flutie came in and asks her for a favor that she says no to at first, but eventually agrees to do it because he stated that he knew what she was going to do because she always does the right thing and is predictable. Although he got caught and school administration wanted to know who the female accomplice was, Marcus never gave them Jess’ name. It was a big deal because Marcus was already in trouble with the law and school administration. So after the whole ordeal, Marcus was sent away to a different school while the rest finished out the school year and headed into the summer. Jess took a summer job at the local ice cream shop, Manda, Sara and Bridget’s boyfriend, Burke all took jobs there. Bridget had asked Jess to keep an eye on Burke while she was in California for the summer, which Jess agreed to.
It was long into the summer that Jess figures out and is able to confirm that Manda and Burke are spending extra time together, but is asked not to tell by Sara who is the one that confirmed it. When Bridget returns from California, she doesn’t contact Jess right away and when she does, she doesn’t ask Jess about Burke’s behavior while she was gone; so Jess doesn’t offer up the info that Burke cheated on her all summer long with Manda. Soon it was the first day of school of her senior year – everyone is kind of shocked when Marcus returns to school wearing nice clothing, no longer selling drugs, enrolled in AP classes, and not hanging out with quite as many, nor the same girls he used to. There was a lot of speculation and rumors going around the school about where Marcus had been, what had happened to him, and why he had changed.
Jess spends a lot of time writing in her journal (that’s why readers know what she’s thinking and how she feels about things and people), so she is a good writer and her English teacher notices. The English teacher happens to be in charge of the school newspaper and asks Jess to be the op-ed writer for the paper since she thinks Jess would do a good job. Jess agrees even though she didn’t really know what she thought or how she felt about it. At some point, Jess and the Clueless Crew find out why Hy randomly and abruptly stopped showing up for school; Jess being the most hurt and angered by this betrayal of Hy’s writes her first op-ed about Hy’s two-faced behavior. It is Marcus Flutie who points out how Jess is two-faced because she still hasn’t told her so-called friends that she doesn’t even like them. It is at this moment that Jess realizes that he’s right and how she needs to craft her first piece. The piece is published and during lunch that same day, Jess finally tells Bridget the brutal truth about Burke and Manda betraying her over the summer which causes a fight between the three girls because Manda had sworn Sara to secrecy; and well Manda and Bridget are fighting for obvious reasons.
After the fight at lunch, everyone at school had read the op-ed piece and Jess becomes well-known for it. Many students thank her for openly writing what they’ve been feeling for a while and people she didn’t expect. Marcus even congratulated her on the piece which she liked for some reason she couldn’t understand. As the year wears on, Jess and Marcus begin talking on the phone every night before bed; Jess is curious as to what happened over the summer and if he got in trouble for the fake drug test, but doesn’t ask him right away since she is enjoying talking to him. In the end, Jess works up the courage to find out the truth from Marcus himself, who tells her one afternoon when they were spending time together. However, Jessica wasn’t ready for the truth and she is pretty upset when he finishes the story from beginning to end.
Overall the book was good – it had it’s good parts and then there were some parts that were kind of boring. Jess does spend a bit of time obsessing over her inability to have a regular period; and spends a good amount of time moping about Hope leaving, about her sister’s upcoming wedding, and all of her other perceived woes. She was a little too whiny and worried too much. I think that she works hard, sometimes, to be the complete opposite of her sister so she can complain about how she has nothing in common with her mom (or sister) while also using it as an excuse to get out of doing anything with them. She comes off as a little selfish (Bethany does too) because she’s unable to do something that would make someone else happy. Although the ending left me wondering what will happen between Jess and Marcus, I’m debating whether I’m curious enough to read the next book to find out because I’d have to tolerate Jess’ incessant teenage worrying and ridiculous thoughts again. Is it worth it? The jury’s still out.
I wouldn’t recommend anybody under the age of 18 read this novel, of course, because of the sexual content in the book. I would recommend it to anybody who enjoys – and I mean REALLY ENJOYS – young adult romance novels; I don’t think this book would appeal to someone who doesn’t already love both genres. Luckily for me, I found this book at a used bookstore for about $5-$6; I’m not sure if this is a book that one would easily find at their local library, but it never hurts to check the catalog or ask a librarian. If not, then you can always order a paperback copy from Barnes and Noble for $15.00 (or $13.90 for Members who also get free shipping by the way!). And this is one option that you can use now because they’ll ship the book to your house or you can choose curbside pickup!
Thanks for reading my book review! I hope you enjoyed reading it and will come back next Friday for the next book review about a non-fiction book that I purchased a few months ago and found the time to read since I’m at home more. Here are more book reviews you can peruse if you just can’t wait until next Friday and find yourself with more time on your hands that you’d usually have.