About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Monday, July 20, 2009

#62 - Bad YA habits, take 2 - Sloppy Firsts

Gotta love insomnia. Not. Baffling because it's rarely a problem for me, but this makes twice this week I've gone to bed at a reasonable time and lain there for an hour or so before acknowledging that my mind's racing a mile a minute and I'm Just. Not. Tired. Perhaps it's time to lay off the evening caffeine.

Anyway, once I faced facts and made my way down to the living room to read, I knocked off Sloppy Firsts, by Megan McCafferty (Crown, 2001) in about 2 hours. Y'know, it was a lot of fun; I really wish I'd had something like this to read back when I was in high school. The first of what's now a 5-book series, it chronicles a year in the life of New Jersey high school student Jessica Darling. As the book opens, on New Year's Day of her sophomore year in high school, Jessica's best friend Hope has just moved to Tennessee, leaving her rudderless and very, very lonely. Her remaining "friends" -- gossipy rich-girl Sara; sexually adventurous Manda; and beautiful but dim childhood pal Bridget -- drive her crazy with their vapid prattle, and while most girls would die for a crush or a rose from hunky, athletic old pal Scotty, Jess just finds it annoying. Her parents, preoccupied with older sister Bethany's upcoming wedding and Jessica's performance on the school track team, have little patience with her drawn-out moping about Hope's absence. Honestly, what's a self-respecting, cynical brainiac to do?

Perhaps it's to be expected that two very different individuals intrude to throw off Jess's angsty adolescent equilibrium. (Who was it that said there are really just 2 plots in all of literature: A Stranger Comes to Town and Somebody Takes a Trip?) One is Hy Wallace, a hip NYC fashionista whose sudden arrival in Pineville just doesn't make sense. The other is notorious stoner and Lothario Marcus Flutie, who, impressed at hearing Jess con a guidance counselor and grateful for a bizarre favor she does for him, slowly insinuates himself into her thoughts. This presents two problems: first, Jess has no interest in feeding Sara and Manda's thirst for rumor-mongering; and second, the absent Hope loathes Marcus.

You'd expect the ending to be fairly predictable, but it wasn't -- at least for me. I don't know if McCaffrey had one or more sequels in mind when she wrote this one, but I still liked the resolution -- it's neither too neatly wrapped up, nor too obviously a "stay tuned for volume 2" cliffhanger. I don't know that I'll go crazy for the series like many people did for the Twilight books (bor-ing, IMO -- with apologies to my vampire-lovin' sister-in-law) ... but I'll certainly read the others if they turn up.

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