I somehow missed the memo when I was younger to read the Jessica Darling series. I’m not sure why, because the synopsis sounds like something my young self would have been very excited to read. When I saw the whole series at my library, I randomly decided to get to it. I’ve been seriously lagging behind in my Series-A-Month challenge, so I thought these quick reads would be an awesome long one to get to. Instead of individually reviewing all five of these really old books, I figured I’d share my thoughts here on the series as a whole!
THE GIST | Jessica essentially has an existential crisis when her best friend, Hope, moves away. She spends most of the book complaining and missing her. She’s left with “The Clueless Crew,” or three girls that she barely likes but continues to be friends with for some reason. She mostly just sits with them at lunch and doesn’t do much of anything else. I couldn’t stop reading this book and was pretty curious about where it was going to go, especially because not much happened plot-wise for a while. It took me a little too long to realize this was literally a diary.
THE GOOD | MARCUS FLUTIE. I love him. I shipped it so hard for some reason. The end of the book made me incredibly anxious for the next one and I was pretty pissed that the library I finished the book in didn’t have the series. I had to wait until the next day to go to my local one to get it. ANYWAYS even though the plot doesn’t pick up much until 50% in, I was really enjoying the second half of the book. I also liked her starting to reignite the friendship with one of her older friends that she usually scoffed at during lunch; I hope that continues into the next book.
THE BAD | It took me a really long time to get used to her voice. It’s an authentic one, for sure, but it took me forever to really be interested. She does come across as kind of rude and negative a lot of them… but I could totally relate to a lot of her experiences. Maybe this book is so hard to read because it makes the reader remember their high school experience a little too clearly. The book was not perfect by any means, but it was addicting.
THE FINAL RATING | I definitely have positive feelings overall, but it took some getting used to. The plot took a while to pick up and I wasn’t sure if/when anything was going to happen aside from Jessica pining over Marcus and missing Hope. It was kind of conflicting but I think reading Debby’s review can give you a perfect idea of how I felt too.
THE GIST | Jessica is a senior now and obsessing over her final days in high school, as well as where she’s going to end up for college. She struggles with telling her parents that she applied to Columbia and that she wants to live in NYC. (Everyone is reeling after 9/11 at this point.) Again, plot-wise, not much happens. The diary format works well because you pretty much feel like you’re just seeing someone’s average, daily life.
THE GOOD | This one was a lot funnier than the first one! I’m not sure if I just finally got used to her voice or something, but I found myself laughing more overall. I was more involved in the story and super invested in her and Marcus getting their shit together. I’m happy with how the book ended but it sucks because I can tell their relationship saga is going to be back and forth for the next three books or something.
THE BAD | Her parents really piss me off. They pay basically no attention to her; when they do, it’s to bring her down in some way or another. (There was one cute scene with her father that I loved.) Otherwise, I don’t have a lot of complaints about this one!
THE FINAL RATING | Overall, this one was extremely enjoyable. Jessica is a really interesting narrator and I’m excited to see where the rest of the series takes her. I know that the books cover a LONG timeframe, which you don’t normally get in YA books/series – so I’m excited to see her grow up.
THE GIST | Jessica is in college now and not much has changed. She spends the first half of her Freshman year trying to maintain her relationship with Marcus, until she fucks it all up. She spends the rest of college doing more stupid things until she inevitably graduates early. Surprisingly I feel like a lot more of actual plot happened in this book than usual.
THE GOOD | If everything in the first 50-60% of the book was as good as the final 40-50% of the book, then I would have rated this one much higher. I loved seeing her friendships develop and change throughout college, and I particularly enjoyed “the winter of our discontent.” Literally everything else in the second half of the book worked for me and reminded me of what I like about this series. I got a lot of feels when she graduated college because I had similar mixed reactions when I graduated college. It’s crazy that this series covers such a long period of time!
THE BAD | Ugh, this one gave me really mixed feelings. I feel like I keep saying it, but this is the hardest to wrap my head around. Jessica is a huge idiot for most of the first half of the book. I’ll avoid spoilers, but she hasn’t really grown out of her ways since coming to college. Ignore this part if you haven’t read the book: I usually can deal with love triangles and cheating in books because it’s a reflection of reality, but it didn’t work for me here. I don’t like what she did to Marcus and her other relationships in this one are ridiculously stupid. Overall, the first half of the book bugged me a lot and I actually enjoyed the second half for the most part.
THE FINAL RATING | This has been the hardest one to rate so far. Yes, even after the mixed feelings I had for the first book. I didn’t like the first half and think she made a lot of idiotic decisions. I was hoping to see some character development and growth; people usually change a lot during college! I did, however, love (most) of the second half of the book.
THE GIST | This book is a little different than the rest. It takes place over the course of one week instead of over a few years/semesters. Marcus is randomly attending Princeton while Jessica works and lives in the city, so she heads to his college to break up with him. Instead, HE proposes. She’s given a week to make a decision and she chronicles her time in a notebook he gave her. She’s debating the marriage question and talking directly to him for a lot of the book. It was weird getting used to her saying “you did this” as if she wrote him a letter about himself. She does end up spending most of the time saying “I did this” or “I thought this” so some of that weirdness faded as I read.
THE GOOD | This one was really funny. I laughed my ass of when she made a South Park reference to Bethany’s MILF friends. I also loved that FINALLY the mysterious, illusive, BEST FRIEND TO BEAT ALL BEST FRIENDS – Hope – was actually in this book, instead of through letters. She’s living with Hope and she is a much larger part of the plot. It was getting really tiring to just hear about how wonderful Hope is without ever even meeting her or witnessing a conversation between the two of them.
THE BAD | Like I mentioned, the format/voice took getting used to. It was also a weird adjustment with the timeframe being a week instead. I ended up liking both and didn’t have an issue with them over time, but it was kind of odd that the author decided to switch that up after three books done completely differently. I also have weird feelings about Marcus now that he’s back from the desert. I don’t know why, but he’s just gotten weirder and less OTP-like for me. I have a feeling this will change in the last book though. It’s also quite annoying that a lot of the earlier plot points from previous books are alllllwayssss brought up repeatedly. She can’t reference a person or event from her past without rehashing the whole thing. We get it! We’ve read the previous three books!!!
THE FINAL RATING | Meeep. These books get harder and harder to rate. Overall, I liked this one, even though I think Jessica is a dummy. The ending made me extremely eager for the final book because COME ON MARCUS FLUTIE IS LIFE.
THE GIST | The final book in the Jessica Darling series occurs three years after Fourth Comings. I don’t want to spoil anything from the previous book, but maybe this is a spoiler anyways: this final book is the one where Jessica and Marcus BETTER GET THEIR SHIT TOGETHER. After the ending of the fourth book, you knew their story must not be over. This book takes place over the course of a day, when Jessica and Marcus see each other at the airport after three years apart. Marcus is returning home from a trip rebuilding in Louisiana and Jessica is headed to a tropical wedding when they literally run into each other.
THE GOOD | The ending! The final 20% of this book completely made up for the misery I felt during the beginning of the book. I really liked the way it ended, although I wish for a litttttle more information. You can assume where things are headed and learn about the far future, but I am just a bit curious about View Spoiler » I LOVED getting some insight into Marcus’s head! The final book made him less of a mystery, which I think was so great. However…
THE BAD | …the writing style of this one bugged the crap out of me. If I thought the third one was awkward in letter-form, this one was even worse. It was told from the third person omniscient point of view, so we could see into both of their heads. I liked the fact that I knew what they were each thinking, but it would have worked just as well with dual point of views from Marcus and Jessica, just alternating each chapter. There was a huge segment of the book that was literally just back and forth dialogue about the two of them catching up, full of awkward [pause] and [cough] in between. There were also various poems that they wrote? I don’t know, it just felt super weird. It reallllly hindered the book for me (until the end).
THE FINAL RATING | Despite the fact that I disliked how this one was written, I can’t ignore the sheer perfection of their reunion. I loved catching up with them and learning about their friends, their lives, and their futures. I have to let it affect my rating a little bit, but the CONTENT is too good to ignore. I’m really, really pleased with how this one ended. I was smiling like a dumbass throughout the whole thing.
Overall Series Review & Rating
If I were to average out my ratings for this one, it comes to a 3.8 – go figure that my final rating has to be just as annoyingly hard to figure out as the rest of the book’s ratings were. I could round down, because I DID rate three out of the five books with 3.5 stars; it seems appropriate that it all averages out that way… OR I could round up to 4 stars, because technicallyyy that’s how 3.8 stars would round if we were using math terms.
ANYWAYS, now that the hemming and hawing is over – I really have to say my overall thoughts on this series are extremely positive. I’ve kind of forgotten about the annoyances that happened in each book when I look back. I wish that Jessica developed a bit more as a character; I think she was still fairly judgmental and often annoying… but who isn’t? She felt real to me.
I’m really happy I read this series. It was amazing to watch someone grow up and have a series cover such a long amount of time (about 10 years?). I wish there were more book series like this one. Would I reread it? I’m not sure. For Marcus Flutie, I might. YOU, YES, YOU.