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REVIEW: Charmed Thirds by Megan Mccafferty

Dear Ms. Mccafferty:

Cover for Jessica Darling Charmed Thirds
I was late to the Jessica Darling saga and was able to read Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings within days of one another last fall. These were wonderful books and really cemented a relationship between myself and young adult fiction. I recommended these to a friend who responded that she couldn’t read YA fiction because of the lack of believability in the longevity of the relationship. It takes a talented author to make me believe that two high school lovers will make it beyond young adulthood into the forever after realm.

What you did with Charmed Thirds makes the first two books in the series a travesty. You have taken the hard fought relationship between Marcus and Jessica and turned it into nothing more than a hackneyed high school romance. Further, you made Jessica Darling virtually unlikeable. It is a testament to your previous works that I actually finished this book. I kept hoping for the charm and magic of the first twobooks to show through.

Jessica was always a bit myopic and self absorbed but her observations of the people around her as well her own introspection was engaging. In Charmed Thirds, Self Absorption overtakes Charm. If you can’t root for the narrator in a first person book, you can’t root for the book. Jessica’s journal entries were full of hookups and one drunken event after another. She was hapless and so was your plot. Your cast of thousands became lost, adding nothing but filler to Jessica’s journals. Perhaps your point was that as you grow older, people come and go in your life and touch various aspects. I got that people came and went, but I didn’t get their purpose. The meandering thoughts of Jessica were boring at best, dislikeable in many places.

What I found most ironic was that the “keeping it real” subtext was a near constant refrain from the drunken sex encounters to the breakup of high school sweethearts to the profanity laced journal entries. But there are so many unrealistic factors. Jessica’s sexual encounters are almost all while she was drunk yet they were all great. The fact that Jessica was not horribly taken advantage of during one of her drunken sprees. Marcus still wanting to be with Jessica despite her turning into a completely unlikeable person. Her sister still talking to her even though Jessica derides the sister for staying at home with her kids.

The mockery that was made of Jessica and Marcus’ connection that was forged for two books made me the saddest of all. It wasn’t the cheating on Marcus by Jessica that was the biggest let down — it was simply that there was no heart to the event. It wasn’t as if Jessica had found someone she had a greater connection to (ala Something Borrowed) or someone who was more suited to her developing personality. It was just a drunken encounter, unfeeling, callous and cheap. There was little joy in this story. It made me sad to read the book but I was glad when I shut the last page because I had triumphed in finishing it when I really wanted to give it a toss about half way in.

I know I sound bitter and that is because I am. My treasured memories created from your first two books are sullied by this last entry. I will be spending the rest of the week trying to scrub my recollection clean. I know that you are writing another Jessica Darling book but I have no desire to read this new and grown up Jessica. I prefer to remember her as she was in books 1 and 2. D.

Best regards,

Jane

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

10 Comments

  1. jmc
    Apr 18, 2006 @ 07:12:34

    I have Charmed Thirds in the TBR mountain. I had to buy it the day it was released because I so looked forward to the book. But I’ve been afraid to open it up and start reading. I expected a break up and some sort of flings, experimentation, whatever you’d like to call it, but I’m disappointed to learn that what happened was so much worse than that :(

    McCafferty’s website indicated that a fourth book would be published eventually. Did CT end in a way that left room for more Jessica? More Marcus?

  2. Jane
    Apr 18, 2006 @ 07:25:33

    CT did end with Marcus and Jessica together but it looked like there may be more separation and it ended with the idea that maybe they would be together in the future and maybe not. It didn’t leave me with great hopes. (oh, and of course to be consistent, Jessica and Marcus have great sex at the end. LOL).

  3. AAR Rachel
    Apr 18, 2006 @ 08:32:01

    Sob. This book is supposed to come today from Amazon. I’ve been waiting for it since January. Practically with baited breath. I LOVED the first two books. Now I think it would be better off if I just tried to sell it on half.com without even cracking it.

    If you could turn back time, would you toss it unread?

  4. AAR Rachel
    Apr 18, 2006 @ 08:35:00

    I should add that this is the SECOND sequel book this year I’ve had this dilemma about. I paid major money to have The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons shipped from AUSTRALIA, and halfway through I wished I hadn’t bothered.

    Man. I used up major money of these disappointments. Money I could have spent elsewhere.

  5. Jane
    Apr 18, 2006 @ 08:40:56

    Rachel

    I hate to tell you not to read it but I am sorry that I did. It just left a bad taste in my mouth. I would note that the professional reviewers all liked it but most of the regular readers had the same problems I had. Why don’t you read the first few chapters and if it doesn’t appeal to you, send it back. I had a hard time making it through the first half. The story is set all on breaks while Jessica is home but her journal diaries events throughout the year. It is alot of book for 3 years to fit into.

  6. AAR Rachel
    Apr 18, 2006 @ 20:31:10

    Jane,
    I went to Amazon and read the reader reviews and have decided to return it. Which makes me so sad. Really. I had high hopes, but based on readers’ comments I don’t think I’d like the college Jessica and I don’t think I’d like where McCafferty is taking the relationship between her and Marcus (which is kind of why I wanted to read it anyway). How depressing. I’ve been looking forward to this book (in an abstract way) since the summer of 2004 and excitedly since January. But sometimes you just have to know when to fold ‘em. I’d rather end with book 2 when they are still happy and life is somewhat less messy and ugly.

  7. Jane
    Apr 18, 2006 @ 20:35:53

    You know, I read some reviews at Barnes and Noble that stated that this is what real college life is like and that who could expect Jessica and Marcus to stay together. And I guess that is the reality of most high school couples, but when you read YA fiction, you want to believe in that fiction – that these two people are fated. MM does have J and M end up together but it is an incomplete together. An uncertain together. She has them fighting in the third to the last journal entry and having fabulous sex in the last journal entry. It’s funny because you and I are well past the college period and we long for that fantasy of the high school lovers while those girls in college are all like – this is what real life is and I love the reflection of it. It’s all about perspective, I guess.

  8. Achsah Okeke
    Sep 22, 2008 @ 21:30:26

    I have read the first to books and I have the fourth one. The library doesnt have the third book. Please, I know you didn’t like the book, but could you please tell me what happens. Please. I dont feel like trying to buy the third book or waiting for it to come to the library. Please tell me what happens in the story all the details. Thank You.

  9. -JayyDee.
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 02:20:32

    How many pages total in this book?!

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