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Teenage drama with a twist

Title: Sloppy Firsts
Author: Megan McCafferty

By Charlene Lee, 13, Walnut HS

Despite its original and clever title, Sloppy Firsts, I looked at the girl with a magazine and phone on the cover and immediately anticipated another clichéd, teenage love story. Fortunately, I was proven wrong.

This novel by Megan McCafferty is not about a typical girl who wants to fit in. Not so aptly named Jessica Darling has the feisty personality that few girls yearn for and even fewer boys appreciate. Although well-liked and admired, no one ever made sense of the real Jessica Darling—the one who reworded yearbook titles from “Biggest Flirt” to “Most Likely to End Up on Jerry Springer.”

The story opens the day after her best friend, Hope, moves away, and 16-year-old Jessica is shattered. Now she is left to face the materialistic girls at school, her father’s obsession with her high school running career, and an infatuation with a senior who doesn’t know she exists. Making references to pop culture from television shows like The Real World to magazines such as Vogue, Jessica relays her sophomore and junior year through her cynical thoughts in her journal and letters to Hope.

But Jess’s sarcasm can’t seem to escape her even during ordinary events, such as visiting the school shrink. She looks at the nameplate, “Professional Counselor,” and decides that the psychiatrist was “a few credits short of a legit PhD and probably couldn’t find enough evidence for her doctoral thesis to prove that hugs are indeed better than drugs.”

However, parts of her seem all too Disney: she has a GPA of 99.66 out of 100, is a track star with an unbreakable mile time, and has the champion jock’s undying love. But she still sees him as her eighth grade boyfriend who would “blow his nose and point out all the colors in the tissue.”

Nevertheless, Sloppy Firsts is a brilliant example of how sincere a girl can be when not pressured by society. It also shows that revealing your emotions can have a positive impact. When Jess wrote an editorial that expressed what students were too timid to say about the constant lies and backstabbing, she unintentionally encouraged the student body to state their true feelings, which stopped the fake smiles and fished-for compliments.

After being “introduced” to Jessica, I am more honest with friends when they ask for my opinions. Jessica Darling is a perfect guide to understanding how true to herself and others a girl can be.

A boy breaks out of his shell

Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author: Stephen Chbosky

By Brandy Hernandez, 15, Hawthorne Academy

This book is crazy good. There’s a lot of drama. Typical teenage things happen to the main character Charlie, a 15-year-old boy who keeps to himself until he meets two new friends.

You’ll really like this book because the characters are like people you meet every day. In the beginning Charlie’s a wallflower. He’s starting high school and he’s nervous. But then he meets Patrick and Sam, who are a brother and sister in 12th grade. He goes to parties with them and meets new people. He starts becoming more OK with who he is and he isn’t as shy. Before, the only friend he had was Michael, who had just died. Throughout the book, he’s wondering why Michael killed himself.

At one party Patrick gets high and Charlie finds Patrick and a football player, Brad, making out. Another time, Charlie’s older brother and sister throw a party while their parents are away and a boy named Dave rapes a girl.

Charlie tells Sam he had a dream about her, but she says “I don’t want you to waste your time thinking of me that way.”

The book is letters written by Charlie to “Dear Friend.” I wondered who this person was, but he never says who he’s writing to and he doesn’t include a return address. I liked that he was writing to somebody and they couldn’t write back. He just wants somebody to listen to him.

Charlie’s English teacher, Bill, believes in him. Bill gives him extra assignments and books to read because he thinks he’s really smart. Bill also gives him good advice. One time Charlie tells a story to Bill about his sister’s relationship with her boyfriend. He says the boyfriend slapped her. Bill tells Charlie the boyfriend shouldn’t have done that and calls his parents. He says, “Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve.”

The one thing I wished was different was the ending. I feel there should be a second part because I was left wondering, what happened with him and Sam? What happened in school and with his family?

If you like books about teens in high school, then you’ll like this book. It’s really what goes on in people’s lives.