Apr 17 2006
Dear Ms. Mccafferty:
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.