In Fourth Comings, Jessica Darling (via Megan McCafferty) managed to overcome to dislike that I acquired for her during her college years (Charmed Thirds). I no longer viewed her as just a Girl Who Makes Bad Decisions. I can't say that I was 100% on board with every choice she made in this book, but I can definitely say that she has returned to the "think everything through from every angle" character that I came to know and love in Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings.
In Fourth Comings, Jess is a recent college graduate. She is living in New York City, subletting an apartment. On the upside, she's sharing a room with her best friend Hope. I loved actually getting to know Hope in this book, as she has been mostly present only through her letters in the previous three books. And after three books of having Hope presented as the ideal best friend, practically perfect in every way, it was quite interesting to find out that she's, well.... not. (Though she's still pretty great.)
On the downside of the living arrangement, Jessica and Hope are also sharing the apartment with Manda and her girlfriend--who acts like an immature teenage boy. Manda was more of what we have come to expect from previous books, just "matured" (?) to a 20-something in the big city.
Bridget, Sara, Scotty, Dexy, Jessica's parents, and Miss Hyacinth Anastasia Wallace all make appearances as well. Bethany and Marin appear frequently and give Jessica a good deal to think about.
And, of course, there's Marcus. As the story begins, he's experiencing his first day as a 23-year-old Princeton freshman. Jessica is just not sure that she can handle 4 more years of living apart from him. She's also not sure that she can handle dating a college freshman while she pursues a career (if only she could find real job....). And most of all, she's not sure she can handle being in a relationship with someone that can't seem to produce a sentence of more than 3 words (much less an entire conversation) after his self-imposed silence at Gakkai College and then his stint in Death Valley. Ohhh, Jess, I hear ya. We all had some deep love for Marcus back during Sloppy Firsts, when you were having those epic late-night phone conversations. But now he just seems so distant....
So she decides to break up with him. Not because she doesn't love him (she totally loves him!), but because she can't see their relationship going anywhere. But with his "predictable unpredictability," Marcus ups the ante, refuses to accept her breakup, and proposes marriage instead. He gives her a week to think it over--a week during which he is conveniently away at some kind of Outdoor Orientation Experience and therefore cannot communicate with her. Exit Marcus from the story, except in Jessica's memory and imagination.
The rest of the story consists of Jess's experiences of the next week and her contemplations as she tries to decide if love is, indeed, "all you need."
Without giving anything away, I'll just say that I agree with the decision she reached in the end.
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As an interesting (to me) side note, this book stumps librarians everywhere. The first two books of this series can be filed squarely in YA, since the narrator and all the main characters are high school students. The third book is a bit trickier, since it includes more mature themes and the characters have all progressed to college.... but at a stretch, it could possibly still be cataloged as YA, since it's the continuation of a series. But now in this one, they're all definitely adults. And the themes (marriage, job searches, financial independence, even the guardianship of Marin) are all adult. So this one is definitely to be filed in the adult collection (as is the one that comes after it, Perfect Fifths). So do we split the series and file it in two different places? (In which case, where does Charmed Thirds go? I'd vote with the adult.) Or do we just file the whole series under adult? These are the things I contemplate on a daily basis. :)