Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review: Charmed Thirds

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The third book of the Jessica Darling saga begins the summer following Jess's freshman year at Columbia University.  She and Marcus have managed to survive their coast-to-coast separation (he is at a Buddhist university in California) with their romance intact and look forward to at least a few weeks of reuniting before Jessica begins her awesome summer internship with True magazine.  But somehow their weeks together don't end up as idyllic as Jessica had hoped, and then her internship is not quite what she expected either....



And then enter her sophomore year....

Unlike Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings, Charmed Thirds covers a large expanse of time in one novel.  Jessica's entire college career is summed up in this third novel.  However, I was somewhat surprised by how little of her actual college experience was described by the novel.  The book began after her freshman year had ended, so all that we learned about her much-anticipated college experience was told in little snippets after the fact.  Sophomore year was divided into "sophomore winter" and "sophomore summer."  Apparently the only important events that happened during Jessica's college career occurred while she was on breaks from school.  Or, in the rare event that anything important happened during the school year itself, it was only narrated in a flashback during a break from school, and only described in relation to how it related to the events that were occurring during the break.

I had very mixed feelings about this method of narration.  I mean, I understand its usefulness as a way to basically skip forward a large chunk in time, hitting only the highlights.  But during the actual reading, I was extremely frustrated.  I had just stuck with Jessica for two entire novels, during which she wanted nothing except to leave Pineville.  So now she's in college, she's got all the resources to be off to a new and better life, and I'm to believe that the only significant events in her life occur while in Pineville???  It's enough to make me lose all respect for her as a narrator.  Furthermore, she apparently formed zero significant relationships during her college years.  I realize this may have been a plot device in order to keep the cast of characters for the series smaller, but really, I did not have any sympathy for her as a character when she was dissing on Sara for not being able to get beyond Pineville gossip.... and yet her only relationships are still with Pineville people.

During Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings, I was a huge fan of Jessica Darling.  I rooted for her.  I related to her.  I could see a lot of my high school self in her.  I felt like she was flawed yet respectable, someone I could really get behind.  I could absolutely understand why Marcus Flutie (the bad boy who desperately wanted to reform himself) would have fallen desperately in love with her.  She was an awesome character.

I simply did not understand the Jessica that I saw in Charmed Thirds.  She was A Girl Who Makes Really Bad Decisions.  She alienated everyone everyone close to her.  She had no close relationships.  She made stupid decisions.  She had no plan for her life.  And she didn't even seem to feel bad about all the people she had hurt or let go.  And yet, miraculously, at all seemed to work out for her at the end--because, you know, she was such a great girl and deserved it.  And I was supposed to be happy for her?

Really the only thing that I did like about Charmed Thirds was Megan McCafferty's writing.  And because that is just so darn good, and also because I really hope Charmed Thirds was just a fluke and that the Jessica Darling I came to know and love in the first two books will make a comeback in the next installment, I have already put in an interlibrary loan request for Fourth Comings.  So stay tuned....

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