Jessica Darling's in college! Things are looking up for Jessica Darling. She has finally left her New Jersey hometown/hellhole for Columbia University in New York City; she's more into her boyfriend, Marcus Flutie, than ever (so what if he's at a Buddhist college in California?); and she's making new friends who just might qualify as stand-ins for her beloved best friend, Hope. But Jessica soon realizes that her bliss might not last. She lands an internship at a snarky Brooklyn-based magazine, but will she fit in with the uberhip staff (and will she even want to)? As she and Marcus hit the rocks, will she end up falling for her GOPunk, neoconservative RA . . . or the hot (and married!) Spanish grad student she's assisting on a summer project . . . or the oh-so-sensitive emo boy down the hall? Will she even make it through college now that her parents have cut her off financially? And what do the cryptic one-word postcards from Marcus really mean? With hilarious insight, the hyperobservant Jessica Darling struggles through her college years--and the summers in between--while maintaining her usual mix of wit, cynicism, and candor. "From the Hardcover edition."
Megan McCafferty writes fiction for tweens, teens and teens-at-heart of all ages. The author of twelve novels, she’s best known for SLOPPY FIRSTS and four more sequels in the New York Times bestselling Jessica Darling series--available throughout 2021 in updated 20th anniversary editions. She published two new books in 2020: TRUE TO YOUR SELFIE (MG, Scholastic) and THE MALL (YA, Wednesday Books). Described in her first review as “Judy Blume meets Dorothy Parker” (Wall Street Journal), she’s been trying to live up to that high standard ever since.
This book disappointed me. I had a hard time sympathizing with Jessica this time. Maybe now that she's in college, among her intellectual peers, complaints about how she's surrounded by morons just don't ring true. Not that we saw much of her in class, or in college. All four years were crammed into this one book. I was looking forward to Jessica's wry observations about her fellow students and classes at Columbia University. How would it feel to no longer be the smartest person around, but be challenged by the intellect of your classmates? We'll never know, because all that was glossed over in favor of summers and internships. Did Megan McCafferty not like college, and just want to get her character Jessica Darling through it as fast as possible? But, hey, maybe I shouldn't be complaining about that, seeing how little I enjoyed Jessica Darling: Whiney College Student.
This is the strongest of the 3 books in the series I've read so far. It covers the entire 4 years of Jessica's college life and this is the REALEST depiction of college I've ever read. Jessica sees friends come and go, struggles with holding on to high school friends and relationships, watches her parents move on to a new stage of life, and deal with the crushing pressure of being a broke college student with no idea what she's doing with her life.
I've said it before, this series is a product of its time. It was written and set over 10 years ago. The (many) pop culture references are dated, and the characters are extremely non P. C. Despite this, there is a diverse cast. I think you have to read this book with a certain understanding that it might offend because Jessica is quite judgmental of her peers, but readers who are in their late 20s to early 30s will really connect to the nostalgia.
When you finish a Jessica Darling novel, there is only one thing to say: "OMIGAWD" (Or, you know, quote oh my gawd! unquote).
Whether it be after Sloppy Firsts when that heart-breaking cliffhanger just makes you want to rip your hair out.
Or after Second Helpings after Jessica and Marcus finally, finally, finally get together.
Or after Charmed Thirds when you are simply unable to digest the sheer magnitude, truth, and scope of one book, four years, and so many journeys.
Quite honestly, I picked up Charmed Thirds more skeptic than excited. After two such poignant Jessica Darling books, I wasn't quite sure if the college years would live up to be just as powerful as the high school years had proven to be, especially as I have yet to experience college for myself. With Jessica Darling, so much of the punch is in the nostalgia, in the experiences long forgotten but still so pivotal and important to growth. Surprisingly, though, Jessica's thoughts in Charmed Thirds continue to mirror my own, even where her experiences are so different from mine. It seems almost strange now that I ever imagined that Jessica and I would be unable to relate to one another just because she went off to college while I'm still slaving my way through high school. Yet, Megan McCafferty continues to prove what I always suspected: Jessica Darling is timeless.
Of all the Jessica Darling books, Charmed Thirds is easily the most messy of the lot. Not only is its format slightly different in that Jessica journals only rarely, skipping months altogether, but also in that this novel expanses an entire four years of Jessica's own life. In parts, it almost feels a little jarring to see Jessica remain the same from one month to a month five months down the road and yet, her growth is forever. Where the previous two Jessica Darling books chronicled every single slight detail about high school, from the people to the teachers to the homework assignments, Charmed Thirds has little to do in way of teachers and students. Instead, it is a deeper, more introspective look at Jessica's own college experience - her struggles to find a job, her stress at discovering her major isn't what she thought it would be, her ever-changing relationship with the elusive Marcus Flutie, and most of all, the crazy experiences she undertakes in trying to find herself.
And while I may not agree with everything Jessica chose to do (and know for a fact that I will NOT be making many of the mistakes she made), these years are a true testament to just how difficult it is to find who you are and what you want from life. Jessica remains to be as witty and intelligent as ever, her insights both monumental and increasingly silly when it comes to the opposite sex. And, best of all, one of my favorite themes is still present in this series - that of impact. Just the fact that Marcus and Hope remain so important to Jessica while simultaneously being the people most apart from her continues to be such a realistic theme in this series. While Jessica and Marcus' relationship has its ups-and-downs, so does the one between Jessica and Hope. And yet, while Jessica is out feeling guilty, passionate, regretful, and everything-but-happy, the other people in Jessica's life provide us with immense insight into the college experiences of other people. Whether it be Bridget, whose relationship is a model of perfection, or Hope, who manages to achieve so much from her college years, or even Marcus, who finally finds who he is after years of misbehavior, not everyone's experience is like Jessica's. And yet, hers is by far the most realistic, messy, and poignant by the end.
Perhaps best of all, though, is the mere fact that Jessica comes to learn more about her parents, her sister, her niece, her boyfriend, her school friends... Where before they faded into the background of Jessica's story as her journal entries were filled with increasingly anxious remarks about Marcus or high school or college, now her journals become an insight into the people who have made her, molded her, and continue to do so. What I love best about Jessica is that she thinks she has everything figured out, but she truly doesn't. By the end of Second Helpings, Jessica seems to be a self-confident individual, ready to tackle on everything the world has to offer, but she could not be further from the truth. With college comes an exposure to entirely different people and the shocking truth that contrary to popular belief, Jessica does not know what she's doing with her life. And that is okay. Easily the best part about these novels is the plain truth that it is perfectly normal to not know where you want to go in life. And while we all know this, Jessica included, coming to really know it is an entirely different journey altogether.
Charmed Thirds is a collection of stories. While it is predominantly Jessica's story herself, it encompasses so much more, tackling on the world in entirely new and insightful ways. Although my review itself is conspicuously romance-free, Jessica's love story continues to be as messy and delightful as it always was, not to mention shockingly realistic. (You will cry. You will scream. You will often find yourself telling Jessica, "NO! NO! NO!" to no avail. And yet, you will love it. Just trust me on this one, okay?). All in all, Charmed Thirds has shaped up to be the most unforgettable of all the books in this series so far and I cannot wait to see where the adult years continue to take Jessica.
"I, too, wish our love was right. But it wasn't. Not at all."
This was quite a journey. And I was shocked that the magic from the first two books wasn't gone. Marcus and Jessica were my favorite bookish couple growing up and I swear my 15 y/o self was deeply in love with Marcus, hoping to find a guy just like him in real life (no wonder most of my high school and college relationships were toxic). And when Megan Mccafferty turned their love into a dysfunctional mess in this sequel, I was absolutely appalled. Seriously thought about shutting the book and pretending it was never published. Luckily, I kept on reading and fell in love with Jessica's character again. Yes, she's extremely flawed and problematic, but also very human. All the things she was going through were realistic and believable. There was no sugar-coated "they lived happily ever after" like one would expect from a YA book. They just lived on. And it was refreshing.
And now brace yourselves for being spammed by my favorite quotes.
"You need to let Marcus go and move on," she said. "You are not the source of his problems. And he shouldn't be the source of yours."
I put off having sex because I wanted it to be with the right person. I thought this person was Marcus. And he was. At the time. But he isn't now. Which suggests that I probably could have done it with someone else just as easily and ended up exactly where I am now. Alone. With a total stranger touching me only because my mother has paid him to.
"I will be there and everywhere," sang the cutest Beatle. "Here, there, and everywhere . . ." I know this promise is meant to be a positive thing. A show of devotion. But what happens when such omnipresence outlasts the actual love? What happens then? You end up like Len. And me.
"A friend, dear Marcus, would have had the decency to officially break up with me. A friend wouldn't pull what you did with those postcards. Don't you think you're getting a little old for these antics? Like, it's not enough for you to take a break from our relationship, you have to go on a yearlong silent meditation. And it's not enough for you to give yourself some space, you have to go to goddamn Death Valley. Next thing you know, you'll decide it's not enough to take a vow of celibacy, you'll have to castrate yourself with a ceremonial sword carved out of strawberry Jell-O!"
"I mean it, Marcus," I snapped. "It was cute and mysterious in high school, but now, now it's just . . ." As I floundered for the right word, Marcus filled in with one of his own. "Sorry," he said.
I normally don’t write reviews but I just felt that I had to explain my huge disappointment with this book.
First, I have to say that I LOVED Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings. Perhaps that’s partly why I found the third installment in the series so disappointing. But there is more to it, I assure you! Indeed, when I began reading Charmed Thirds I had huge expectations but I as went through the first 50 pages I resigned myself to the fact that this wouldn’t be a 5-star book for me. But I wasn’t ready to give up yet. As the story evolved, though, I was really hooked and when Jessica and Marcus broke it off I was on the verge of tears.
I was mad at Jessica, of course, for doing what she did but I kind of understood her as well. She was young, scared and confused with her feelings so she made a mistake. I admired Marcus for not being ready to throw away their relationship just yet. But, unfortunately, it is all downhill from here. Jessica returns to school and has to face everything she’s done while she still doesn’t know where she and Marcus stand. She is even more confused by his one-word postcards that just leave here hanging. She almost sleeps with a married man!!! Then comes the message from Marcus, who meanwhile has gone to some weird “gay cowboy camp” in total isolation, that their relationship is wrong and loses it. She stops writing to Hope, doesn't contact her other friends and eventually finds a rebound guy. And she sleeps with him and then with someone else. In the end, she and Marcus are reunited but I wasn’t as happy for them as I thought I would be.
I have some major problems with this book. First, it's the expanse of time that passes throughout the whole book. After Marcus ends it with Jessica we are thrown into her last TWO years in college. How can you summarize two years of somebody’s life in what? 200 pages. We are introduced to a couple events and here Jessica goes into her last semester. It just ruins the college experience for me as finishing high school this year. And another thing, even though this is a diary we don’t get to see Jessica’s emotions so much it’s like she can write about others but not about herself. I expected her to be heartbroken after everything with Marcus but after a couple of pages she stops mentioning him at all. She doesn’t move on she just shuts herself away.
Secondly, I am a little disappointed in Marcus. Surely, he had gone through some pretty bad things in life and needed some time alone to think it all over and find who he really was. But two years? Two years without contacting Jessica, that’s too much for me.
Thirdly, I am really annoyed with Jessica. She had always dreamed of escaping Pineville to go and live here life free of morons and people who don’t understand her and when she does she doesn’t appreciate it. She waits for everything to be handed to her like some spoiled brat. She doesn’t go out of her way to try to understand others and always thinks she knows best. She doesn’t appreciate her friends and her sister, she takes them for granted. Honestly, most of the times I liked secondary characters such as Brittany, Bridget and Pepe more than I liked her.
Last, I am disappointed with the Jessica-Marcus reunion. Yes, time has passed and wounds have healed but it’s just too easy. If I were Jessica, I wouldn’t have let Marcus back into my life so easily. For a person who talks so much, Jessica doesn’t question him for his absence or silence for TWO years. It’s like good you’re back, let’s f**k. Marcus also doesn’t put too much effort in trying to apologize either. It was like we are soul mates and we belong together but we didn't make up earlier because the book would have ended.
All in all, this book was a Notso engaging installment but I am not ready to give up on the series just yet.
You know what your problem is? You are ungrateful and selfish. You mock people, they way they live, and the decisions they make...and then you hypocritically do. the. same. things. For instance, how many times did you mock Manda for her promiscuous behavior? Do you think your behavior is any better? And I love how you try to justify your ways. Unfortunately, I'm not buying it. You're a spoiled brat without a clue. I feel no sympathy for you. I feel no pity for you. I thought, once upon a time, that we would be friends had we braved the waters of high school together. Now I know better.
One other thing: Your relationship with Marcus. is. dysfunctional. You both need some serious therapy before you should even remotely consider a relationship with each other.
The only thing that saves you from a one star rating? Your humor. You still managed to entertain me at times. Alas, Jessica, I will see your series through. Why? I don't know. The sadist in me? It's really too bad that McCafferty decided to make such a mess of your life. Really, there were so many wonderful ways this series could have gone. Maybe you can redeem yourself in #4?
To be honest, I don’t have too much to say about this third installment in the Jessica Darling series. I enjoyed it, I still like Jessica and even if it might not reflect too well on me, I have to say that I can still relate to her extremely well. The things she goes through, the mistakes she makes...this all sounds so familiar to me!
Charmed Thirds is definitely the wordiest book in this series and I must admit that there were parts I didn’t really care for and I even found myself being tempted to skip pages. Nevertheless, I am still hooked and want to see how everything works out for Jessica so I’ll definitely keep reading. Oh, and Marcus might be a reason, too ;-) On to Fourth Comings!
Jessica Darling is now at University after the first two books documenting her high school experience. Not even close to being YA if any of her books ever were. I loved the first book especially, one of my favourite books. Now at Columbia in NYC just after 9/11, Jessica is still the narcy wise assed smartest girl on the block, but it is not working as well for her as back in her hometown of Pineville NJ.
Becoming an adult has its challenges and Jessica is having a hard time with it. Entertaining, funny and always interesting, this five book series has captivated me.
Maybe it's just me but after Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings I was pretty disappointed by this book.
The third in the Jessica Darling series, Charmed Thirds reads less smoothly (it took me a while to get used to the overly detailed -- and annoyingly wordy -- descriptions of everything) and is far less interesting than the previous books. I think the problem lies int he fact that Jessica is just much less likable for most of this book and the decisions she makes (about her college career and the men in her life) made me cringe. Although the book spans 3.5 years of her life, the plot never really seems to advance... it just goes around in circles. She never really meets quality new people and instead keeps reverting back to her old Pineville existence.
I don't really get the self-destructive back and forth with Marcus. I've been in self-destructive relationships before but I could only relate to an extent -- this is just way too "out there" at this point. I'd like to know why McCafferty thought it would be a good idea to turn Marcus into this Buddhist monk type because that seemed like it was completely out of left field but whatever...
So, in conclusion, this was my least favorite of the series but I still plan on reading Fourth Comings.
Oh how I laughed and laughed, cringed in shared mortification, laughed, despaired over mutual heartbreak, laughed, became over-wrought with neurosis, laughed, cringed, sympathized and laughed.
Jessica Darling says what most of us are shamed to think. She isn’t noble, far from it, but she’s deliciously flawed in a true, human way. We all say the wrong thing at inopportune times. Many of us, myself included don’t know when to shut up or back down. We may even jump in the sack with a subpar guy for fleeting, spur of the moment reasons. We obsess over the most obscure words behind our hearts desires messages. In short, we are loons, doing our best to get from one day to the next all the while trying to find our path in life and reason for it all. Jessica will make you feel less alone on your journey.
Jessica is becoming a "smarter" version of Bella. I'm so tired of her bitching and moaning about her "horrible life". I get that it's a journal, but good god, aren't you ever happy (without Marcus?) I'm also a little tired of her condescending attitude towards everyone. I vaguely remember a line in the book where she looks at her mother and says something to the effect of, "She's just like I was before I went to college". Really Jessica? You sound like an idiot. I loved when Bethany told her off about showing some respect for a mother who gave up a career to raise her. And while Jessica seemed to understand, she continued to turn her nose down at her mother. Ok, I'll give you that she's strange (and the whole sex scene w/ the parents was just weird)but she's your mother--show a little respect. And for a girl who claims to be such a strong woman who doesn't believe in "true love" or monogamy, she's got a serious case of screwing up her life because of a guy.
Don't get me wrong: I'm a sucker for this Marcus guy too (or at least I was in the first 2 books..but that's another issue), and as much as Jessica has been annoying me, I would like to see them have their "happily ever after". But I'm just so annoyed by her. It's getting hard to root for such a whiny, condescending snob.
About the writing: McCafferty, in this book, has forgotten about some great minor characters. Scott (while not a great character, but come on, she could do some interesting things with him) is barely mentioned, Manda is declared a lesbian, but yet we never hear from her, Pepe and Bridget seem to have a good thing going...where'd they go? and Marcus...hello??? What happened to his character? Did she not read her other two books?
McCafferty also seems to want to discuss some pivotal cultural moments (9/11, the tsunami, Bush as an unpopular president) but doesn't really know how to do it intelligently (which is suprising since Jessica is SOOOO smart...eck). I'll admit, there were huge chunks of this book that I literally skimmed. She could have cut this book in half and we still would've "gotten it".
But I will finish. By god, I will finish this series if it's the last thing I do.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Can someone tell me how the hell did I give this the highest ranking when it deserves anything but?! Seriously! My explanation is that I was blinded by Marcus Flutie. Why is it that everytime I do something stupid about a book it's always male lead's fault?
I. Am. Disappointed. As much as I liked the first two books this was a huge let down. I admit that those books were great only because of Marcus, but really, this one was unbearable. How could I not realise how much I despise types of person such as Jessica Darling? She claims she's super smart and sophisticated but she makes such a futile choices that I wanted to kill her most of the time. Explain to me all those pointless relationships, please! Because I don't see the point. Most of the book she's really confused about guys when we all know that the only guy she wants is one and only Marcus Flutie. We all know that but her! Get a grip!!! Like, was it really necessary to cheat on him, than seduce a married man (without actually sleeping with him), than be in a relationship with a "sensitive", emo guy, than (spoilers!!!!!) devirginize Len to just go back to Marcus? According to Megan McCafferty it was.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
One of my favorite books back in college was Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty, so when I heard that there will be a next book for Jessica Darling (even if I was really content with how the second book ended), I was thrilled. Of course, being the paperback lover and not having my own income back when it was released, I didn't get it until I just quit my last job. You'd think I'd read it immediately, too, but no. I ended up reading, stopping, reading, and finally just stopping, until I lost my copy in the 2009 Ondoy/Ketsana flood that almost engulfed our house. Before I knew it, there was the fourth and fifth book, but I never got to read the third so my Jessica Darling world only existed until she graduated high school.
Well, I finally got around to it shortly before I left for Europe, thanks to that complete collection ebook that I bought a few months back. Jessica Darling is now in college, and you'd think things would be easier for her, right? After all, she's out of Pineville! But of course it's not. Charmed Thirds brings us through Jessica's college years as she gets into the dream internship that turns into a not-so-dream, finds new "best" friends who may or may not be like Hope, and falls into other scrapes that go in the way of her relationship with the sometimes no-contact boyfriend, Marcus.
Just as when I tried to read this the first time, I actually stopped right in the middle of Charmed Thirds before picking it up again. I was in Europe then so I didn't feel like reading Jessica's adventures. I have to admit that somewhere along the way, I just got...disinterested. Jessica still is witty and hilarious, and there were some heartwarming moments in the book, but I felt the same way as when I reread Sloppy Firsts. Jessica is so angsty! She thinks a little too much and sometimes, I can't help but think that she makes her own life miserable with all that thinking. Not that the other people around her aren't as strange or dysfunctional, and that I'm discounting the truly sucky things that happened around and to her...but I can't relate. I guess it's because I had a pretty okay college life, and I'm normally a happy person? Or maybe because I'm past all that already? Jessica is such an overthinker that I couldn't really keep up with her. I also had a hard time with reading Marcus and Jessica's seemingly non-relationship. It's hard to decide who was at fault here because they both equally had strange ways of dealing and working with their relationship. And honestly, it's not really something that I want. No matter how Marcus made up for it in the end, and no matter how sweet and sensitive he may seem. Even if that's the part of the book that made me go aww and like this book (But not as much as I liked Second Helpings).
Not that Charmed Thirds isn't fun to read, because like I said, Jessica is still witty and hilarious and her encounters with her Pineville people were also fun and cringe-worthy at times. Even her parents started becoming more interesting (especially when Jessica walked in on them -- oh the horror!). I thought Jessica was still brave for facing the things she did and sticking it out until the end. Her decisions aren't always wise, but she's definitely tough even if she doesn't know it.
Maybe this is how growing up really is. It's never clean-cut or organized thing, right? It's always messy, and even the smartest ones don't go unscathed.
Oh, and of course I'll still read Fourth Comings.I'm in this until the end -- I want to see where Jessica Darling ends up. :)
The first question that came to my mind after I finished this was: Is that it?
Where the hell is the humour of the first two books? Why the hell is Jessica having more hot and cold moments than that guy in Katy Perry's Hot and Cold video? I don't get it.
The first book was amazing, the second was...not so amazing, but it was hilarious, so I'm okay. But what the hell do I say about this one? Jessica did so many anti-Jessica things (I won't reveal them, because almost all are spoilers).
But ya know, that's Jessica for you. I've been in her brain for more than thousand pages now, and I still don't get her, and one time during this book, even she admitted to not understanding herself at times.
Finally free of dull Pineville, Jessica makes her way to prestigious Columbia University full of wide-eyed enthusiasm. Well as much enthusiasm Jessica is capable of when her boyfriend Marcus is also heading off to college, just all the way across the country in California. And once again, Jessica, who over-thinks everything, begins to over-think their odd relationship. Especially after Marcus begins sending cryptic one-word postcards does she feel like losing her sanity. But financial and family troubles quickly send Jessica into college-overdrive mode and there isn't much room left in her life for anything else.
If I was mildly annoyed with Second Helpings, then Charmed Thirds frustrated me to no end. For the first half of the novel Jessica spends all her time complaining to Marcus that she doesn't want to be 'that girl' who doesn't have a life without her boyfriend (BUT SHE IS). And then the second half is spent complaining about their lack of communication - but doesn't really do anything about it - and that she's too poor. I had truly been looking forward to Jessica's descriptions of college life and the people she meets, yet Megan McCafferty completely blanks out that entire period of Jessica's life. Charmed Thirds covers her entire three years at Columbia yet never once do we hear about it. The narrative simply stops and starts around each school holiday break or return to Pineville. Not exactly what I was hoping for.
Maybe it was the almost complete lack of Marcus in this installment but I also became seriously disillusioned with the Game Master. Perhaps it was Jessica's narrative influencing me, but I was so annoyed with his vow of silence and his choice to go to 'cowboy camp' that allowed him no outside contact for two years -- yet never having the decency to break up with Jessica. Grrr. I'm sorry, but little to no communication over an almost three year period does not a relationship make.
So frustrating! She's just going around in circles. And sorry, but the young college women I know do spend a little more time actually thinking about, y'know, classes. Young, quirky, appealing-but-she doesn't-know-it Jessica apparently also has a magical vagina: all it takes is for men to get near it, and they are irrevocably changed. Married men are willing to have affairs; firmly Republican, vaguely misogynistic men die of broken hearts (literally!--and then J doesn't really think about him again until someone else brings up his cache of bad romantic poetry addressed to her!); science geeks surrender their virginity to her and abandon their mother's dreams of becoming MDs (ok, that one actually happened in the reverse order, but still...). And what's with the whole Accutane thing? Between the no-period thing in the first book and the cystic acne in the 3rd one, I thought for sure we'd discover that she has polycystic ovary syndrome by the end of this one...but no. She discusses the Accutane and its effects on her, a few hundred pages later someone else mentions that her skin looks nice and always has...is this supposed to be some commentary on her mother being hypercritical? Also , if all references to things that occurred in books 1 & 2 were eliminated, this book would be ~1/3 shorter.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This was my third time through books one and two of Jessica Darling. Every previous time, I decided I didn't want to know more and wouldn't ever read the rest of the series. However, because I'm a completionist, I changed my mind about that. I only read about 30 pages, but they convinced me I didn't, in fact, wish to read the rest of the series. Jessica's tone feels off to me, and I already dislike basically everything that's happened and I haven't gotten to the part where things really go wrong yet.
Tons of people love the later books, but I think I personally will be happier with just the first two.
Against all expectations, I am smitten with the Jessica Darling series. The series is probably considered “chick-lit” by most (a term I detest due to the gendered notions of literature it evokes but that I’m using due to its popularity). But while it’s ostensibly chick-lit, there are no treatises on shopping or one-night stands. It is not brainless and vapid. Instead, it flips the chick-lit tropes. It’s actually about a girl trying to find herself in a world that wants nothing more than for her to be a vapid chick.
In Charmed Thirds Jessica goes to college. But her college experience is not the “wooo hoooo let’s get drunk and have the best four years of our lives” experience. In fact, most of her time at college is uncovered. McCafferty has chosen to record these four years only during Jessica’s winter and summer breaks, thankfully leaving the drudge work of college to our imaginations. What I love about Charmed Thirds is that it does not sugarcoat college. Instead it captures the uncertainty of the American college experience. It is full of malaise and the endless worries of millenials such as “What will I do?” And “Will I be good enough?”
It sounds depressing, and it very occasionally is, but Jessica’s charming voice carried me through the story. Jessica is straight-up hilarious. I laughed at loud at some of her predicaments and groaned at some of the others. Her hyperaware, overdescriptive style will be appreciated by any young neurotic. I also sympathized with her relationship with Marcus. Their relationship is a cornerstone of the series, and my oh my, in this book, it becomes even more deliciously complex. Marcus is a delectable creature in the sphere of YA boys, though his entire appeal is the fact that he resembles his fellow YA love interests in no way. Sometimes I wanted to reach into the pages and shake Marcus because he’s so frustrating. But while Marcus is difficult to understand sometimes, he really loves Jessica and his witticisms keep the relationship interesting.
Often authors who torture their characters before finally uniting them in love struggle to keep the relationship interesting after all the angst dies. Luckily, Megan McCafferty is not all authors. She shows how college breaks relationships. She shows how even two well-matched individuals can treat each other poorly. With Marcus and Jessica she’s created a messy, imperfect relationship that is brutally honest. I also like the irony of Jessica’s situation in this book. Jessica, who spends so much time judging people for their seemingly incomprehensible relationships, finds herself in a relationship that is occasionally incomprehensible to her and largely incomprehensible to everyone else. But she loves Marcus and the relationship works for her. And that’s all that matters.
Honestly the audience for these books might be small. There’s not much escapism here. Jessica’s life kinda sucks. Others might dislike Jessica for being overanalytical and cynical and thus incapable of happiness. But there is a small sliver of young women, including me of course, who will see themselves in Jessica. And in a time when it seems like you don’t know anything—about your career, friends, love life, who you are—her plights will be a source of comfort.
i loved sloppy firsts and second helpings. charmed thirds? notso.
mccafferty apparently has never met a plot device she didn't like. siigghh.
in the first two installments, jessica's life is metered out slowly in months, each month's end marked by a letter to hope. as in life, time flies in college and here the format alters, marking more the periods in between learning. poor hope gets ignored for huge chunks of time and the letters now are more based between marcus and jessica, jessica and her parents, or jessica and one of her myriad "flings"...it's too much. like high school deserves to be analyzed in agonizing detail, but not college? and it's not that i loved the whole "letters to hope" bit, but the fact that she gets otherwise ignored for huge chunks of time speaks to the essential problem of this book: jessica's world is too determined by her own prideful isolation. she creates situations that are self-destructive, chooses in those moments to entertain the self-destruction, acknowledges the limitations and imminent emotional dangers of these situations, and does them regardless. hard to feel sorry for that sort of mentality, you know? and i've had bad breaksups before. not an excuse to be an idiot.
next, the character of marcus has been inexplicably changed. first he goes off to weirdo-buddhist college, then, after jessica "cheats" on him with a heart-defective republican, he decides to take a vow of silence, sending jessica a series of one-word postcards, while he makes a quiet exit to "gay cowboy dancing camp" in death valley. yeah, that's how it breaks down. i'm a huge marcus fan. this was inexcusable and sloppy.
at the heart of the matter, as with all the darling books thus far, the reason i read them is not just because i'm hoping for marcus and jessica to work out all their bullshit in the end (although i am, even after this muddling installment); it's the ring of truth in the book's quieter moments. i do feel, at times, that mccafferty has stumbled across old emails and letters of mine and has used them to shape her novel (She didn't); of course, her need to continually drag up plagiarist "hy" and her inability to develop her own ideas when jessica throws perfectly good ones at her repeatedly could be some psychological manifestation of the "sharing of ideas" gone horribly wrong in her own life...regardless, it's uncanny at times. and it helps give me closure for moments for which i didn't even realize i needed some sense of finality. thanks for that.
minor characters appear and disappear too quickly here to be of any consequence. i wish there had been a little more fine-tuning in the final revisions of this book...oh, and a little more pepe. i love that kid.
This book was a bit of a disappointment after FIRSTS and SECONDS. Like a lot of other reviewers, I hated how all four years of college were crammed into one book. Not only were those years not fleshed out, we didn't even get a glimpse into those years. We're led to believe that Jessica Darling is only journaling on her school breaks? Because of this, most of her writing focuses on the people we knew in the first two books...Bridget, the Clueless Two, Len and of course Marcus. This feels like JD hasn't matured or developed at all since high school. She was so obsessed with getting out of high school and Pineville and she spends all of her college years obsessing about high school. The people that JD mentions in her college life are so thinly painted and boring.
I did like how we get a better glimpse at her family life. I love how we originally got such a one dimensional look at Mom, Dad and Bethany. As the books go on, we get a much better look at their lives and their problems. I do think McCafferty is good in this - she patiently reveals things about characters without jumping the gun. As a writer, it can be difficult to keep a secret when you know so much about the characters you're describing.
I both love and hate all the cleverness. I still think it's contrived and pretentious. And although I enjoy most of the pop culture references, it makes me feel like these books are bound to be a flash in the pan. How can these books survive time when they describe too much one moment in time. These books aren't timeless, even though some of the relationships could be seen that way.
Lastly, I do enjoy reading about Marcus. I love his games, his mystery, his intrigue. This book was almost empty of him. After SECONDS, this is inexcusable. The worst thing about this book is the lack of the one character that's the most interesting - Mr. Flutie himself.
One other thing that is getting distracting - McCafferty obviously loves the big ending. Each of the books are playing out the same way - a couple hundred pages of tortuous build-up followed by a half a chapter of BAM at the very end. Unfortunately, this makes it hard to think about sitting through two more books when all I really need to do is read the last chapter of each and save myself some time.
Our Not-so Darling Jessica is off to college. There's lots of touching stuff with her sister and her parents and Marcus and blah blah and if you liked the others, you'll like this one.
But what I really liked about this one is that it gave a really accurate picture of college life. There are a bunch of pissy reviews on Amazon of people who are obviously not in college about how Jessica changed to much and what happened and why didn't she stay in touch with blah blah blah... but that's what happens when you go to college. You become a different person. You lose touch with the kids from high school. You become an adult (gasp! I know!)
I also like the little details thrown in of Brita-filtered Vladimir and and Ali G-style "Respek". And even the talk about Facebook. Except McCafferty calls it THE Facebook. Ha.
Most of all, I loved that Jessica discovered early on that college is college and the college experience isn't unique to your university. The mind-altering life changing thoughts and experiences? Every other college kid is having them too. I liked that she realized this early. I liked how it crushed her. Because that moment was just SO TRUE. And so rare in literature. Especially when the character is at the author's alma mater, which is the case here.
I also loved this bit of irony
"He's one of those shaggy-haired sideburned emos who owes a great debt to Conor Oberst as the champion for man-children with ink on their hands and poetry in their heavy, heavy hearts."
Not only hilarious and true, but coming from the world's biggest Smiths and Morrisey fan. I mean, Morrissey has to be the FATHER of emo, and I don't think Jess realizes it.
I did NOT like Jessica Darling in this new phase of her life. I try to remind myself that she's getting the crap kicked out of her by the college realization that she's not as smart/good/interesting/unique as she's been told her whole life. But I just want to shake her and tell her to "grow up, already!" Stop being so selfish! I mean, the stunning realization that her parents are, like, people. Really? That's really just the tip of the iceberg on this one, but I feel like listing all my problems with her will take this 'review' to a whole new ranty level that I just don't want to reach.
However. That's not to say I totally hated the whole book. I was happy to read about a lot of the minor characters, and to meet the mysterious Hope (even if only for a brief, personality-less moment). I'm still not convinced that Marcus is out of his phases, and I feel like Jessica has already tried this "what will be will be" approach to their relationship, and look how well that turned out. I'm still going to keep reading because I'm a sucker for a series, but only with extreme reservations.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
CHARMED THIRDS, the third book in Megan McCafferty’s bestselling series, introduces a more insightful and pensive, though not necessarily more likable, Jessica Darling. Diehard fans of the first two books will have trouble coming to terms with Jessica’s growth, though personally I think it’s fantastic.
College is supposed to be better for Jessica Darling. After all, she has escaped Pineville to attend prestigious Columbia University in the greatest city in the world, and she is still with Marcus.
However, things are not as great as it seems. Jessica and Marcus’ relationship seems to hit the rocks. She still can’t escape her high school joke of friends, even with new college friends. She has unsatisfying flings with several different guys. But worst of all, her parents won’t help her pay for college.
How will Jessica even survive her college years, let alone come out a better person?
Yes I finished this one and I have never been so disappointed in a character before. Jessica has turned into a slutty, annoying, obnoxious nitwit. Not only does she cheat on Marcus, but she devirginizes Len on the couch of an ice cream shop WTH?? She has sunk sooo low in my opinion. I just don't understand where the Jessica Darling of Sloppy FIrsts went! This whole book is devoted to her college years and all she learns is that she wanted to sleep with her married TA, emo guys aren't great sex buddies, and she has spent 4 years earning a degree that she doesn't even want. UGG what a waste of time! I know I did it to myself so i have no one else to blame, but I will not punish myself any further. Good bye Jessica Darling!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
I feel like this novel was a little bit rushed. Her whole college experience was pushed into one book. i did like seeing how her relationship with Marcus ended, but then stayed with her for years. his mysterious postcards were romantic and when the message was final and read out loud i couldn't help but get butterflies. I WISH OUR LOVE WAS RIGHT NOW. it was romantic and amazing. the book was cute, but i wish it wasn't as rushed.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Jessica Darling's college experience was so similar to mine, I thought I was reading my own diary entries. I remember being like her and going into freshman year with all of the same naivety and optimism of a baby bird being kicked out of the nest to fly for the first time. Unloading my stuff at the freshman dorm, I walked in thinking this was going to be my place, where I would flourish and acquire so many new friends and memories, high school would tuck itself into the dark recesses of my mind, never to be seen or heard from again.
Boy, were Jessica and I both so, so wrong.
You can go into college thinking it will be completely different to high school, only to realize it's just an extension of if. The same cliques start to emerge as classes begin; professors are just there to pick up a paycheck and don't give a damn whether you succeed or not; and the parties are just as alcohol-fueled, just as lame as they have always been. The friends you thought would flock to you end up all having gone to the same school right down the road, so they don't even give you the time of day. You can't get by with rote memorization like you did in all of your high school classes, you actually have to *work* for good grades! And the food? Welcome to Carb City, population the freshman 15.
It was so refreshing to read from Jessica's perspective at this time in her life. She experienced a lot of the same insecurities I did. She thought she knew what she wanted to do with the rest of her life, but when she finally nabs an internship at one of her favorite magazines, she realizes the world of pop journalism is just as shallow as the articles it produces. She ends up essentially floating through her college years, hoping that she will gain a footing at some point, but by the end of the book, she is still in a sort of limbo. She doesn't have immediate career prospects, and her love life is just as unsure.
Jessica also goes through a lot of ups and down in terms to her romantic life. The high school boyfriend, Marcus, that she thought would carry her through the next four years, is a bust, so she tries to fill the void he left with dud after dud. She finds herself at an impasse, both wanting to cling to the past, but also wanting to experience new things with new people. Yet even when she ventures into new romances, she is still unhappy. I felt this was such a relatable and realistic portrayal of how as you get older and enter your twenties, you want so much out of life, but you're also exhausted by it at the same time.
Thankfully, my life took a turn for the better in the years after college. I kind of fell into the career path I have now, and the longer I kept at it, the more I realized I liked what I am doing and wanted to help people. I am hoping this is what also happens to Jessica, but that she continues to be her same, snarky self. I now consider Charmed Thirds one of my new absolute favorites, and am so glad I found a similar worldview to Jessica Darling's. I will continue to recommend this series to everyone I know!!
This third book was an interesting departure. We know from TV and books alike that it can be difficult to transition a high school series to college as the characters age. McCafferty makes the interesting choice to speed-plot through all of Jessica Darling's undergrad years in one volume. I found myself with narrative whiplash multiple times, as whole semesters sped by in the space of a single journal entry. It made it hard to get attached to anyone Jessica met in college, including boyfriends and roommates.
Marcus Flutie is so irritating in this book, too, with his prolonged silences and absences. I kept yelling at Jessica, "Being emotionally withholding doesn't make him deep!" But of course she had to figure things out on her own.
Great book. Jessica has grown up a lot since the first book but still remains the same. She still makes some pretty bad choices but at least learns from them. It’s a little weird to read the book and hear how Facebook was back in the day. The book showcases how people come in and out of our lives and that people are never truly gone. Looking forward to reading more.