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The Totally Guaranteed Guide To Loving Jessica Darling

In Megan McCafferty's new book, Jessica Darling meets junior high. And the results are unsurprisingly awesome.

The Totally Guaranteed Guide To Loving Jessica Darling

BOOK REPORT for Jessica Darling's It List: The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection by Megan McCafferty

Cover Story: Still Headless After All Of These Years
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Straight Up With a Shot of Junior High Sass
Bonus Factors: Marcus Flutie a.k.a. the Ultimate Mysterious Loner Dude, Prequel, The Fact That We Finally Got A New Jessica Darling Book PRAISE THE LORD
Relationship Status: The Renesmee To My Jacob

Cover Story: Still Headless After All Of These Years

In keeping with the previous Jessica Darling covers, this artwork completely beheads our cherished heroine. Are we never to be blessed by her glorious visage? With that said, I understand that this type of cover is strategic, allowing each reader to picture herself as Jessica (and, more importantly, picture themselves getting busy with Marcus Flutie), plus there's not a cover model in the world that deserves to play Jessica because she is just THAT awesome. Also, I dig the typeface, further confirming the suspicion that my tastes haven't changed since the 8th grade.

The Deal:



Okay, SO, hopefully you're familiar with the Jessica Darling books, a.k.a. my favorite YA series of all time. (If not, I honestly have no idea what you've been doing with your life, and I'm very disappointed in you, young lady.) Well, Megan McCafferty has taken pity on the victims of JD TEABS and created a new series all about Jessica... in junior high. Which means we get to see our girl being even more awkward, even more confused and even more clueless. It's pretty much a win for everyone except Jessica.

The book begins right as JD makes the monumental transition to Pineville Junior High. Her older sister, Bethany (BETHANY!), bestows precious wisdom upon Jessica in the form of the IT List, which is basically a list of four rules that every girl must follow in order to be popular. Jessica attempts to abide by the list as she journeys into the treacherous land of seventh grade along with her bestie, Bridget (BRIDGET!) and a group of new friends which includes, you guessed it, Hope, Manda and Sara. Per usual, nothing goes as planned for Jessica, who quickly realizes that she can't rely on the IT List if she wants to survive junior high.


I think I've made it clear that JD has my platinum BFF charm FOR LIFE, and this book reinforced the fact that we are soul twins, kindred spirits, bosom buddies, sisters from another mister, etc. I really enjoyed getting to know my literary bestie as a tween, which is something I'm pretty sure I've never said about anyone of junior high age, because tweens are terrible people. All of Jessica's core qualities-- snark, neurosis and self-deprecating charm-- are firmly in place, but she's still a few years away from reaching that cynical edge she achieves in high school. Seventh grade Jessica hasn't yet lost her optimism or her need to fit in, and I relished the opportunity to meet her before her walls go up and her eye-rolling becomes second nature (although I do prefer her older, prickly self). This prequel achieved the impossible-- it made me love Jessica Darling even more.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

And now we've reached the dark side of middle grade fiction: there is a severe shortage of tingly times. Obviously, it would be inappropriate for Jessica to engage in sexy business in the seventh grade, but it's impossible to read about Marcus Flutie and not instantly experience a reaction in your lady parts. Oh yeah, did I mention that MARCUS FLUTIE IS IN THIS BOOK? BECAUSE HE IS. He doesn't have a major role, which is disappointing but expected, given that his history with Jessica is already laid out in the original series. But I'll take any Marcus Flutie action I can get, so even just spotting him a few times made my heart flutter like a butterfly hopped up on coke.

In other news, why have we not cracked the mystery of time travel? Because I need Megan McCafferty to go back in time and add a paragraph to Sloppy Firsts in which Jessica mentions a romantic interlude with Marcus Flutie in junior high so that we can get these swoon scores up to at least a five. Scientists of the world, GET ON THAT.

Talky Talk: Straight Up With a Shot of Junior High Sass

Damn, it feels good to be in Jessica's brain again. In keeping with a middle grade sensibility, her sense of humor is a little less dark and a bit more goofy, but it still infuses every page with hilarity. Here's an example:

"It is an important day!" Mom called out in agreement. "So much to do!"

"The last day before seventh grade," Dad announced unnecessarily, the way dads who don't know how to talk to kids tend to do.

And another one:

This is one of those stories where the teller is like, "You don't want to hear this story," and the listener is like, "Of course I want to hear the story," and the teller is like, "Seriously, you don't want to hear this story because it's a terrible story where terrible things happen," and the listener is like, "I REALLY WANT TO HEAR THIS STORY SO JUST TELL ME THE STORY," and the teller is like, "Fine, I will," and tells the story and when it's all over the listener is superdepressed and like, "Wow, I wish you hadn't told me that terrible story," and the teller is like, "See? I told you so," but doesn't feel very good about it.

The authenticity of Jessica's voice is, as ever, truly astounding, and the dialogue feels fresh out of a junior high hallway. McCafferty has achieved a major feat by successfully translating JD into a language that will appeal to younger readers while satisfying older fans.

Bonus Factor: Marcus Flutie a.k.a. the Ultimate Mysterious Loner Dude

I'll admit, I felt a little pervy about my reaction towards a junior high Marcus Flutie. It's like that scene at the end of Big when Elizabeth Perkins watches Tom Hanks turn back into little David Moscow. I mean, she had sex with the guy, and then she saw him transform into a kid. It's kind of a mindf*ck. But the good news is that tween Marcus Flutie only serves to make legal Marcus Flutie that much hotter.

Bonus Factor: Prequel

The thing about the Jessica Darling series is that I don't just love JD, I love every single character. I love her parents, I love the Clueless Crew, I even love Scotty.* So basically, this book gave me a new opportunity to hang out with all of my favorite people, and I savored every minute. It was freaking awesome to meet Bethany before her smug marriage, Sara before her tanorexia, Bridget before her Burkedom. Thanks to the prequel, I gained an even better sense of history, like the roots of Hope and Jessica's friendship as well as the seeds of her separation from Bridget. In other words, I'm well on my way to earning a PhD in Jessica Darling.

*There's actually only one mention of Scotty in this book, but I'm hoping for more in the next one. I cannot WAIT to get to their awkward first (and only) kiss.

Bonus Factor: The Fact That We Finally Got A New Jessica Darling Book PRAISE THE LORD

After years of desperate prayers and pleas, I kind of still can't believe that my dreams of a new Jessica Darling book have come true. I mean, when does this ever happen? Okay, with Star Wars in mind, I should clarify that. When does this ever happen and GO WELL?


Casting Call:

Stefania Owen as Jessica Darling

Based on her snarkiness in The Carrie Diaries, I believe Stefania to be qualified to portray a tween JD.

Relationship Status: The Renesmee To My Jacob

Okay, okay, before you cringe from the inherent creepiness of imprinting, let me explain why this is actually the perfect analogy to capture my feelings towards Jessica Darling's It List. See, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the original JD series is my soulmate. So while this prequel is a bit too young for me now, it will ultimately turn into the literary love of my life, and therefore, my heart is implicitly bound to it.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Little, Brown. I received neither cocktails nor money for this review (dammit!). Jessica Darling's It List: The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection is available now.


Shameless Self-Promotion!

Check out our Jessica Darling themed t-shirts!

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).