Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty

Book Jacket

At first it seems that she's living the elusive New York City dream.  She's subletting an apartment with her best friend, Hope, working for a magazine that actually utilizes her psychology degree, and still deeply in love with Marcus Flutie, the charismatic addict-turned-Buddhist who first captivated her at sixteen.

Of course, reality is more complicated than dreamy cliches.  She and Hope share bunk beds in the "Cupcake"--the girlie pastel bedroom normally occupied by twelve-year-old twins.  Their Brooklyn neighborhood is better suited to "breeders," and she and Hope split the rent with their promiscuous high school pal, Manda, and her "genderqueer boifriend."  Freelancing for an obscure journal can't put a dent in Jessica's student loans, so she's eking out a living by babysitting her young niece and lamenting that she, unlike most of her friends, can't postpone adulthood by going back to school.

Yet it's the ever-changing relationship with Marcus that leaves her most unsettled.  At the ripe age of twenty-three, he's just starting his freshman year at Princeton University.  Is she ready to give up her imperfect yet invigorating post-college life just because her on-again/off-again soul mate asks her to...marry him?

Jessica has one week to respond to Marcus's perplexing marriage proposal.  During this time, she gains surprising wisdom from unexpected sources, including a popular talk show shrink, a drag queen named Royalle G. Biv, and yes, even her parents.  But the most shocking confession concerns two people she thought had nothing to hide: Hope and Marcus. 

Will this knowledge inspire Jessica to give up a world of late-night literary soirees, art openings, and downtown drunken karaoke to move back to New Jersey and be with the one man who's gripped her heart for years?  Jessica ponders this and other life choices with her signature snark and hyper-intense insight, making it the most tumultuous and memorable week of her twenty-something like.


Let's start with the good, shall we?  I am incredibly impressed that McCafferty can cover Jessica's entire three-and-a-half year college experience in one book (Charmed Thirds), then turn around and spend the fourth book in the series detailing just one week.  I liked seeing Jessica bond with her family, learning to relate to them as adults instead of seeing them only from a child's perspective.  And I loved getting to know Hope as an actual character instead of merely a pen pal.

But.  I think I have lost my infatuation with Jessica Darling.  She is still funny.  But I get so frustrated with her!  She is too snarky for her own good, I think.  Her pessimism and cynicism got to be too much for me.  I'd rather look at the world with hope, and Jessica is just a downer. 

The other thing I had a problem with was Marcus.  He is rarely in these books, yet we are supposed to love him and think him perfect.  Why?  He is not dependable or mature or willing to sacrifice his desires for hers.  But because we are in Jessica's head, all we see is infatuation.  And yet...I'm not even sure if we're supposed to root for them?  I don't even know.  There were so many romantic mixed signals, and maybe that is supposed to be realistic, but it was too unfocused for me to really get behind either opinion--wanting them to be together or wanting them to break up.

Since I had problems with both the protagonist and her love interest...I'm going to have to rate this one pretty low.  Although I'll admit right now that I have every intention of finishing this series and seeing how Jessica's story finishes.

Two out of five dysfunctional relationships.

Release Date:  August 2007
Reading Level:  Grade 10+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL MCC

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Fourth Comings:

Popgurls (spoilers)

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