Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, and Charmed Thirds

Hey fellow misfits!

It's been a small lifetime since I've written anything here, but it's not because I haven't been thinking about posts. It's mostly because I'm lazy, lazy, lazy. Maybe some day I will get around to writing about my visit to the massive signing at Books of Wonder, my indignant post about how The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks fared in The Morning News Tournament of Books, or about the utter destruction of my Battle of the Books' bracket in ROUND ONE (!!!) (stupid Rachel Cohn), but not today. Today I am facing a particular dilemma, and I need advice from you wise misfit sages. Here are the details of my conundrum:

Based on your mutual enthusiasm for Meghan McCafferty's Jessica Darling series, I decided to check Sloppy Firsts out on a whim. I'd obviously seen it around before, but its chick lit cover art made me hesitate, because I never have as much fun reading those books as I hope to. When I found out it had the Misfit stamp of approval though, I knew it was worthy of trying. So, of course, I loved it. For the first 50 or so pages, I was a bit put off by just how acidic Jess was-- especially in terms of her bodysnarking/slut shaming of her two unfriends. Sara and Manda were definitely unappealing characters, but Jess's judgment of them was SO cutting and SO unrelenting that it was jarring. I guess I'm used to reading books where either the protagonist is a bit more circumspect in their criticism, a bit more distant from their objects of disdain, or has more of a specific foundation for their unhappiness. Jess's situation, however, is very true to life, and I got used to it with a bit of time. Once things started developing, however, her wit wore me down, and her relationship with Marcus Flutie was just too compelling to ignore. I finished Sloppy Firsts and plunged directly into Second Helpings with relish. I loved both and thought this was a new series I'd try to pass on to all my friends. Jess was so smart and funny and her relationship with Marcus--- swoooooon is pretty much all I can say about that. I jumped right into Charmed Thirds, read the first hundred or so pages, and then just... stopped. And I haven't started up again, and it's due back soon and I'm just... not sure I feel like finishing it.

I guess somewhere in there it just felt like Jess kept learning the same lessons over and over again. Don't judge, don't assume, be more kind to people, the same general idea. Only she can't REALLY learn those lessons, because her tart tongue is part of what makes the books so funny. But the ideals of kindness have to be paid lip service to, regardless. It's just like Tibby's plots in all four of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants books. Authors seem to have a hard time knowing what to do with their bitingly incisive girls-- part of their charm is in off-the-cuff mean comments, but ultimately they all have to learn that Sarcasm Is Not The Way. And so their plots become repetitive cycles where they never actually learn their lesson all the way. Or, at least, that's what seems to be happening in Charmed Thirds-- but maybe I'm wrong! Maybe I, like Jess, am Judging Things Too Quickly.

And so I'm asking you, misfits, have I identified the books' weak points? Or does Charmed Thirds pick up after Jess leaves her internship at the mean hipster magazine? To renew, or not to renew-- that is the question.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

margaret, i do hope to craft a longer/more intelligent response to your post when i get time. but for now, i say, do renew and finish the book/series only because i myself always keep plugging along in a series even when it's sort of lost its charm for me, so i can't imagine jumping ship! that said, i mostly agree with everything you are complaining about, but i still really like the books (for the most part) and love jess's acerbic wit and just couldn't imagine not knowing what happened with marcus flutie!