Jessica Darling is getting the hang of seventh grade — finally! While her old BFF, Bridget, is busy talking (nonstop) about her new boyfriend, Burke, Jessica tries to fit in with her new friends, Sara, Manda, and Hope. The IT List instructions from her sister, Bethany, and an epic slumber party may help Jessica secure her spot in the cool clique, but does she even want it?
Megan McCafferty’s It List series introduces readers to Jessica Darling, an unabashedly brainy seventh grader who stays true to herself, even if it means being (totally not) cool.
This is the second book in Megan McCafferty’s middle-grade Jessica Darling series, and it’s just as full of heart as the first. Jessica is just as innocent, witty, and feisty about friendship as she was about popularity.
The premise is similar – Bethany, Jessica’s beautiful, much-older sister, has yet another list that guarantees that Jessica will be able to navigate friendships in her middle school years. The problem? The list is, once again, written in Bethany-speak, and leaves a lot of room for interpretation. In Jessica’s case, that usually means the wrong interpretation and a lot of fumbles and embarrassing moments.
What It List #2 perfectly conveys is that confusion that happens when your friends are changing and puberty is hitting, and you don’t know how to bridge new and old friends. I don’t know a girl in the world who won’t identify with Jessica and her attempts to navigate friendships – it’s that real. And even if Jessica does go to extremes in her ideas of how to solve friendship problems, it’s all done with such heart and innocence that you just want to hug her.
It List #2 also has amazingly accurate descriptions of girls’ mind games, and how they hurt and change people. Truth be told, it reminded me a lot of the movie Mean Girls, because the representation of just how these games are played is so spot-on:
“The worst part about the nastiness Manda and Sara and Dori and Bridget were spreading about each other? Well, besides the fact that I was at the center of it? Some of the smack talk–just a teensy little bit–was possibly true. I could see how Dori and Bridget might envy Manda’s persuasive personality or Sara’s all-knowingness. I understood why Manda and Sara might wish they had boyfriends like Dori and Bridget or a friendship that went all the way back to crib.
I just wish they didn’t have to be so mean about it.”
What I liked most about It List #2 is that it isn’t preachy about how to navigate these problems, and there really are no right answers. Jessica gains a lot of wisdom about how to be a friend, but I think what she ultimately comes away with is more of a feeling that it is OKAY for friendships to change, and it’s okay for her to not understand. She can just let people be and try her best to be a good friend.
Of course the other thing about It List #2 is that it’s advances our characters, turning them into the people they are and will be in the original Jessica Darling series. Manda and Sara are kind of similar to who they will be in Sloppy Firsts, but Jessica’s friendship with Hope and some of the cross-country team girls deepens in this book.
And, like in the first book, there are definitely some interactions with Marcus Flutie. I really don’t want to spoil these, but let’s just say that Tween Marcus is a very accurate representation of who he will turn out to be in the later books – even more so in this book than in It List #1. The friendship between Jessica and Marcus is absolutely adorable and like a true fangirl, I totally gobbled it up.
The Giggles: Like the original Jessica Darling, this series had me laughing out loud quite a few times – the things that happen are so out there, especially when they
Wisdom Comes With Age: If you’re a fan of the older Jessica Darling novels, you know that Jessica’s grandmother Gladdie is, like, the coolest elderly person in fiction. I was SO happy to see her in this installment, and she is just as hip, and wicked smart about life as she was in the original books, with an added bonus: younger Gladdie BAKES. I am desperate for her recipe for Jessica BARlings!
The Final Word:
If you love the original Jessica Darling series, reading these books will give you so much joy and insight into the characters and how they came to be – it’s definitely a fun, light, and quick read for fans. But beyond that, It List #2 left me wishing that I’d had these books as a guide to my tween life when I was a kid. As a 10-13 year old, you need a dose of reality and to know that it’s totally normal to not understand what’s cool, and what isn’t. I really hope there are librarians, teachers and parents out there who are giving this to pre-teens – I think it will help a lot of young girls through middle school.
Recommended for: Tweens who are starting junior high and trying to navigate girl friendships, major Jessica Darling fans
Are you interested in reading JESSICA DARLING’S IT LIST #2? Are you a major Jessica Darling fan like me? Did you have run-ins with friendships and mean girls in junior high? How did you solve them? Let me know in the comments!