Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Recently Read: Farewell Jessica Darling

In between my last couple of books, I managed to finish the Jessica Darling books with Fourth Comings and Perfect Fifths. I am alternatively thrilled to know what happened and very sad to see them go. While I was trying to find links to the books, I thumbed through some of the reviews and I'm dumbfounded that the vast majority of people didn't like either of them, and thought the first three were better. I found the last two the easiest to relate to, but perhaps that is because I am so old and high school and 'coming of age' are in the VERY distant past.

In the fourth book, Jessica has just graduated from college and is mulling a marriage proposal from Marcus. The book spans the week while she's thinking it over and is written in journal form. What else? She lives in a shitty apartment in Brooklyn. She doesn't know what to do with her degree. She's trying to understand her parents and is realizing that their relationship is less than ideal. She's desperately trying to hold on to her friendship with her best friend, even though work, among other things, is driving them in different directions. She's in love, but Marcus' quirky characteristics that were once endearing are now a little embarrassing to her. What's NOT to relate to in here? Really. A lot of reviewers found the ending unsettling, but I thought it was appropriate. To accept a marriage proposal at 22 would be pandering to the reader who wants a happy ending. The realistic ending make me sad, but only because I knew that a fifth book was next.

In the fourth book, Jessica is a few years old (still way younger than me) and literally runs into Marcus in the airport after not seeing him for years. The book spans the day that they reconnect. Okay, some of the haiku crap irritated me, but I LOVED that this book was almost entirely dialogue. A lot of other reviewers dinged it for that, saying that it was trying too hard to be witty, but that's them -- their relationship -- trying to outdo each other. I liked the way the backstories were encapsulated and the feeling of character growth. I abandoned all my "don't pander to the reader" bullshit that I wanted in the paragraph above. I wanted the big wedding scene and all the other characters' reactions, but in a way it was fitting to bring it back to the two heros.

It's hard to explain why I liked these books so much. They read more like YA fiction than books for adults, but I liked watching the character develop over the span of almost a decade. And of course, I related. Dry, wishes-she-was-wittier girl from suburban New Jersey wants to be a writer, wants to get the guy, wants to not be a huge dork, and makes enormous mistakes along the way. I'd love to see what happens to Jessica as she gets older. How did Megan McCafferty envision her? I want her to be happy and I want her to have figured some things out, if only for my own instructional purposes.

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