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.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

126 - Second Helpings

On a web site, in the guest room,
Wasting lots and lots of time
Surfed a blogger, now a slacker,
'Twas yours truly, Hazelthyme.

Yep, that pretty much explains what I've been doing these last few weeks while I haven't been blogging. Reading? Some, but not nearly as much as usual. I could blame my absence on spending far too much time trying to read this book before admitting it Just. Wasn't. Gonna. Happen. and giving up (I've been on a bit of a history kick since reading A Short History of the United States last month, but this wasn't the best way to indulge it); on the focused, brilliantly successful job search efforts I've been mounting (between Thanksgiving and New Years? Get real.); on hours and hours of painstaking Christmas preparations ... but none of it would be true.

Anyway, several weeks ago, I finished Megan McCafferty's Second Helpings (New York: Three Rivers, 2003) -- the second in her Jessica Darling series, for those who admit to following these things. I sent it back to the library weeks ago, so had to raid Liv's book blog for the jacket blurb:

"Jessica Darl
ing is up in arms again in this much-anticipated, hilarious sequel to Sloppy Firsts. This time, the hyperobservant, angst-riden teenager is going through the social and emotional ordeal of her senior year at Pineville High. Not only does the mysterious and oh-so-compelling Marcus Flutie continue to distract Jessica, but her best friend, Hope, still lives in another state, and she can't seem to excape the clutches of the Clueless Crew, her annoying so-called friends. To top it off, Jessica's parents won't get off her butt about choosing a college, and her sister Bethany's pregnancy is causing a big stir in the Darling household."

After being very much underwhelmed by Perfect Fifths, I was a bit skeptical about this one, but found myself pleasantly surprised. OK, OK -- I really liked it. Sure, Jessica is self-absorbed, but that's part of what makes her character so believable; she is, after all, in high school. And maybe certain aspects of her personality -- feeling smarter than most of her classmates, longing desparately to break free of a stifling suburban home town, struggling to Go Through the Motions of senior year, especially in the wake of 9/11 -- hit a wee bit too close to home for me to be objective, but frankly, if this stuff strikes a chord with me, I'm probably not the only one. Where McCafferty really excels here is in both telling the story from Jessica's perspective and giving us just a glimmer of insight into where that perspective falls short. Is Jessica's childhood friend Bridget, now the class beauty queen, really as shallow as Jess thinks, for example? Who is the mysterious author of the anonymous, gossipy Pinevile Low e-mails making the rounds, anyway? Is Jessica's ex-crush turned Columbia undergrad, Paul Parlipiano, truly the gay best friend of her dreams? And of course, will she and Marcus Flutie ever finally get it on?

Yes, most of these are leading questions and the answers (except possibly the Pinevile Low one ... unless I'm just thick) may not surprise you -- but how McCafferty gets there and how much she makes you care made for an entertaining read, at least for me.

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