Sloppy Firsts: A Jessica Darling Novel ( 2001) is the story of Jessica Darling’s battle with loneliness after her best friend Hope moves away from their small town in New Jersey. She despises her so-called friends and can’t relate to her family at all. The story is told from Jessica’s point of view through her diary entries and her personal letters to Hope. Sloppy Firsts captures what it’s really like to be a teenager. The heroine is smart, funny, self-conscious, and determined to leave Pineville, New Jersey far behind.
Avid readers may find this novel to be geared toward reluctant readers. Some readers may think that the novel doesn’t offer substance. This novel is different from most teen literature because it doesn’t talk down to teens or drive home the same point of view. It is refreshing because this is not the typical jock falling for the cheerleader or the pretty popular girl. Instead, we see an unlikely relationship develop between the burnout and intelligent unpopular girl.
I found the characters to be amusing and unforgettable. I can clearly understand why Jessica can’t stand the clueless crew. For instance, Sara is most annoying because of her famous catch phrase, “Oh my God!” After reading it and hearing it in my head over a dozen times it feels inescapable. Jessica’s Dad is obsessed with her running career while her mom is involved in planning her older sister Bethany’s wedding.
Jessica thinks that the new girl Hy, better known as Hyacinth, has friend potential. Hy pretends that she is a streetwise girl who no longer can afford private school and decides to transfer to Pineville High. She drops out of the pictures at the end of the school year and the truth is revealed in a New York Times article. Hy is identified as Miss Hyacinth Anastasia Wallace and turns out to be a celebritant who wrote a fictionalized book about Pineville High to boost her credibility and to get into Harvard on her own terms. Readers get to know Hope Weaver through Jessica’s diary entries and letters. However, Hope still feels unreal to me because of her absence. Just when readers are about to meet Hope, the story ends.
I also enjoyed the ’80s and new millennium pop culture references. It gives readers an indication of the time period in which the story takes place. Jessica is helped to see that there are good and interesting people in her life. Jessica’s character growth is noticeable and will motivate readers to read the the follow up book in the series, Second Helpings.