Publication Date: September 3, 2013
I hadn’t even gotten to homeroom yet and I’d already discovered five hard truths about junior high:
1. My best friend had turned pretty.
2. She didn’t know it yet.
3. It wouldn’t be long before she did.
4. That knowledge would change everything between us.
5. And there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.
It’s the first day of seventh grade. Is Jessica Darling doomed for dorkdom?
New York Times bestselling author Megan McCafferty’s hilarious series opener will have you laughing, cringing, and cheering for Jessica Darling as she learns that being herself beats being popular, pretty & perfect any day.
This book really feels like a flashback to middle school for me. Remember that time when your bff realized that she was pretty? Or when you all of a sudden decided to change your group of friends and leave the old ones behind? Remember the tragedy when your friends all end up in one class and you’re the only one with a screwed-up schedule and in the class that no one wants to take? That’s Jessica’s life in It List. You’ll recognize yourself in Jessica, and you’ll want to cheer her on because this feels like YOUR life.
In Sloppy Firsts, the original Jessica Darling book, Jessica is seriously depressed, but also completely self-aware and precocious. It List shows us Jessica before that depression, when Bridget is her best friend and they’ve really grown up getting each other through everything. Twelve-year old Jessica is pretty self-aware, but she’s also way more optimistic, accepting, and loving of her family than her sixteen-year old self.
There’s a lot of innocence in Jessica. She’s more comfortable in herself and her decisions than her sixteen-year old self…that is, until her older sister Bethany shows up to bust her bubble and freak her out about starting junior high.
Thus, the It List – Bethany’s guide to how Jessica will become super popular and rule the junior high halls. Except that, of course, every time Jessica attempts to follow Bethany’s rules, it all goes kablooey in her face. Jessica at twelve is not afraid to try new things, and she doesn’t really realize yet that she might be an odd duck when it comes to her smarts and her ideas. That fuels her to do what she thinks is right…which sometimes leads her to disastrous consequences, like being stuck in a seagull costume as the school mascot, but sometimes, also, gives her signals to who and what she might want to be.
One of those signals is her friendship with Hope. It’s clear that Hope and Jessica have a lot in common right from the beginning – but it’s also clear that both of them have never experienced what true friendship is. They’re cautious around each other, sizing each other up and taking time to really choose each other as friends. It’s an amazing, gentle unfolding of a relationship that will define the Jessica that we know from the original books – and now we know why.
And before you ask, yes, there’s totally some Marcus Flutie in this book – I do feel like McCafferty may have been pulling a bit of a deus ex machina in how Jessica and Marcus interact in this book, but frankly…I don’t care. It’s done so cutely and sensitively that it’s totally right.
Someone on Goodreads wrote that this book is a gift to Jessica Darling fans. It is. It’s a prequel that delivers many of the things that I feel like I probably needed to know at age ten to twelve, but it’s also so wonderful as an adult fan of the series to be able to revisit these characters, and to see how they got their roots.
The Giggles: No one makes me laugh because of ridiculous situations like Megan McCafferty does. I don’t want to ruin things for you, but Jessica’s stint as the junior high mascot is MADE for laughs.
Hindsight is 20/20: Jessica is just beginning to realize that she might be the smartest person in her class, but she’s also kind of afraid of showing it. Jessica KNOWS that the rules of the “Hots” and the “Nots” are crap, but she has trouble standing up and saying so. For me, this book was such a reminder of who I was and who I’ve become – and it made me squirm a bit when I saw some of Jessica’s actions and behaviours, and how they paralleled my own at twelve.
The Final Word
It List brought me back to a simpler time, a time when I would come straight home from school and devour two Baby-sitters Club books, watch a little TV, and then go to bed with a kiss on the cheek from Mom and Dad. It also reminded me of a time when just navigating the halls at school felt perilous, and when friendship was often just based on proximity of houses or classes. Ultimately, this book brought me a bit of comfort, closure, and a reminder that the rules of junior high aren’t so different from the rules of high school, and, of life.