Summer Reading 2014

Megan McCafferty: An Underrated Author

June 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Books

If you haven’t heard of Megan McCafferty, I’m not surprised. She, like many YA (Young Adult) authors, is criminally overlooked and underrated. My hope is that this review will encourage you to consider her for your summer reading list. Sloppy Firsts is the first book in the Jessica Darling series, which is more than just YA. Sure teenagers get it, but the content and the tone are way funnier and way more enjoyable for adults. That is Megan McCafferty’s gift. She is much more accomplished, much more talented, much more profound than she’s given credit for. And the evolution of her character is a testament to her depth as a writer. Every turn, every development, every story decision makes sense. Jessica’s choices are so real and so poignant, even when they hurt, even when you don’t like them, that at the end of the read you still wouldn’t change a thing. Because they are right. It sounds ridiculous to applaud an author for being “right” about her character, but isn’t it amazing how often the opposite is true?

Yeah, I have been for years straight up annoyed that McCafferty and the Jessica Darling series don’t get the cred that they deserve. McCafferty/Darling should be as recognizable as so many other YA literary phenoms and, UGH, certainly more so than Stephenie Meyer and Twilight. Don’t get me wrong, I too was obsessed with Twilight. I wore a Team Edward t-shirt. I bought Breaking Dawn the first day it was released, but halfway through I started to distance myself from the story. I was falling out of love. By the end, it was like being stuck in a room with someone I couldn’t stand how they breathed, or how they chewed their food. I had to break-up with Twilight. I still feel a twinge of embarrassment when I see it sitting on my bookshelf. But Jessica is no summer fling, she is a lifelong friend. I grew up with her, I can identify with her, and more importantly I respect her.

I’m not denying the existence of a hardcore cult following. There is a strong fan base out there, but Jessica Darling is SO FRICKING GOOD, she should be, like, part of the consciousness. Instant recognition. And I’ve often wondered what it was about this series that kept it from lighting up the way so many other series have. Is it because Jessica came just before the popularity of the supernatural? Was it simply timing? Here’s a story about a girl with such a true voice, such a real sensibility, such an incredible sense of humor and wit, who is smart, and flawed, and really really interesting and also really, really ordinary, but she doesn’t fly, doesn’t live forever, doesn’t bite, doesn’t cast spells, and sometimes yells at her parents. Is it that? What has happened to us, as readers, that a story set in our time and reality is not enough?

Maybe it’s because there is no movie yet to elevate its popularity. If that’s the case, Sloppy Firsts is currently in development and being adapted to film. McCafferty offered a sneak peek to fans who contributed casting ideas on her facebook page. Some of the more popular suggestions to play Jessica were Ashley Rickards, Ellen Page, Emma Stone, Rooney Mara, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, and Halle Steinfeld. For me, after watching The Descendants, it’s Shailene Woodley. You can get more information and updates on her website www.meganmccafferty.com.

I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know that there will be those, perhaps after this reading, who will be lucky enough to discover Jessica Darling for the very first time. And laugh like an idiot to themselves reading Sloppy Firsts. And obsessively burn through the next 4 to get to the conclusion.

I’m currently re-reading the series, again. Every time I read it, something else is funny to me. Or sad. Or amazingly authentic. I’m so glad I know Jessica, and am incredibly grateful to Megan McCafferty for introducing me to her.

  

 

As a side note, if you are looking for this series on our shelves at BCPL, it has been, against my protests, split between YA and adult fiction. You can find Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings in our YA section. Charmed Thirds, Fourth Comings, and Perfect Fifths are in our adult fiction section. In a way, the split does reinforce what I’ve said about being enjoyed more by adults.

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