Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Charmed Thirds

McCafferty, Megan. 2006. Charmed Thirds.

I have a love-hate relationship with Jessica Darling of Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings fame. When I read her annoying diary full of one whiny complaint after another, I feel irritated. Frustrated. But I keep reading. Why? Two words: Marcus Flutie. I don’t know what it is about this bad-boy-gone-good that makes me love him. I can’t explain why. I just know I do. I love him. Reading about him. Reading his dialogue makes Jessica seem worth it in the end. Charmed Thirds was less enjoyable than the previous two for the obvious reason: you guessed it...less Marcus Flutie. It covers her three and a half year college experience at Columbia University in New York City. Jessica is in college. High school is gone. It’s over. Yet some of her irritating quirks live on. Still she has matured more than some of her former friends--Sara, Manda, Scott, Len, etc. There were many small things I liked about Charmed Thirds. I liked how her new “bff” Jane lasted only for one year. How their final three years (sophomore to senior) were spent apart. How these one-time best buds had become total strangers. Why does that appeal to me? It’s true. So true. College is all about having friendships in the moment. Who you click with in one semester, you could clash with in the next. You lose touch. You lose interest. You realize there is more to life. The aspects I liked less were her hit-and-miss relationships. The novel begins with her and Marcus still together. It is June of her freshman year. The fall and spring semesters are behind her, and it’s time for a summer of relaxation--sort of. Marcus and Jessica reunite but it’s short-lived. A few days here, a few days there. A whole year has passed (almost) since they’ve been around each other on a daily basis. They’ve been some changes. Things aren’t as perfect as Jessica fantasized they would be. But they’re together and that is all that counts. But several mistakes later, and their relationship is on the rocks. (Her mistakes, not his). Over Christmas vacation, Marcus decides he needs to go silent. He is going to stop talking TO EVERYONE and take a vow of silence for an undetermined amount of time. This ticks Jessica off. No emails. No phone calls. Just old-fashioned snail mail. I can respect Marcus’ need to be true to himself. He is confused. He is unsure. He needs focus. He needs to find his purpose. He needs to find something that works for him. Jessica’s focus is not on self-improvement necessarily but focusing on the opposite sex. No time for deep-thinking self reflection, let’s focus on ways to get revenge on Marcus for disappointing her. She can’t except where his life journey is taking him, so she wants to prove that she is over him. The problem? She isn’t. She’s pretending. So meeting one guy after another. She tries to prove that she doesn’t love Marcus. That they’re over. That they’re finished. That she’s ready to move on. Ready for casual sex. Ready for this, that, and the other. But it is lies. She is no closer to finding her authentic self than the day she graduated from high school. There is nothing deep about this shallow girl. Nothing deep about her experiments to see how many guys she can pick up along the way. Maybe I’m being harsh. But what does Marcus see in her? Really? She’s shallow. Okay, I’ll grant you that she’s not as shallow as Sara or Manda. But a deep thinker, she isn’t. She's the kind of girl who THINKS she is a deep thinker. She is self-absorbed. Self-obsessed. Thoughtless. Rude. Ungrateful. Whiny. Irritating. Rarely honest with herself. Impatient. Prone to act without thinking. Still the end, those few pages where Marcus once again makes an appearance make the rest of the novel better. I won’t say they make it completely worthwhile. But it balances it out somewhat. I'll be honest. Halfway through the novel, after Marcus goes silent, and when Jessica starts hooking up with other guys...I flipped to the end of the book. I only kept reading because I saw Marcus reenter the picture. Without Marcus at the end of the tunnel, I would not have continued my journey with Jessica. Why? I just didn't care. Jessica seems like a toxic person. The kind of person who drains all of your time and energy. A high maintenance girl. Who is always taking from her friends, but never returning the favor. Never listening. Never compassionate. Never helpful. Never considerate. The kind of girl who is oblivious to other people's feelings and problems even when they're right out in the open. Always me, me, me.

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