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  • Written by Megan McCafferty
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  • Written by Megan McCafferty
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A Jessica Darling Novel

Written by Megan McCaffertyAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Megan McCafferty


List Price: $9.99


On Sale: March 05, 2002
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-0-676-80664-9
Published by : Broadway Books Crown/Archetype
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“My parents suck ass. Banning me from the phone and restricting my computer privileges are the most tyrannical parental gestures I can think of. Don’t they realize that Hope’s the only one who keeps me sane? . . . I don’t see how things could get any worse.”

When her best friend, Hope Weaver, moves away from Pineville, New Jersey, hyperobservant sixteen-year-old Jessica Darling is devastated. A fish out of water at school and a stranger at home, Jessica feels more lost than ever now that the only person with whom she could really communicate has gone. How is she supposed to deal with the boy- and shopping-crazy girls at school, her dad’s obsession with her track meets, her mother salivating over big sister Bethany’s lavish wedding, and her nonexistent love life?

A fresh, funny, utterly compelling fiction debut by first-time novelist Megan McCafferty, Sloppy Firsts is an insightful, true-to-life look at Jessica’s predicament as she embarks on another year of teenage torment--from the dark days of Hope’s departure through her months as a type-A personality turned insomniac to her completely mixed-up feelings about Marcus Flutie, the intelligent and mysterious “Dreg” who works his way into her heart. Like a John Hughes for the twenty-first century, Megan McCafferty taps into the inherent humor and drama of the teen experience. This poignant, hilarious novel is sure to appeal to readers who are still going through it, as well as those who are grateful that they don’t have to go back and grow up all over again.

From the Trade Paperback edition.


Tonight I've been thinking about the mosaic Hope gave me the night she U-hauled ass out of Pineville. I wasn't supposed to open it until my birthday, but I couldn't wait. I tore off the wrapping paper and finally had an explanation for the mysterious slivers of shredded magazine pages all over her carpet. For months, Hope had been tearing out pictures of school buses and pumpkins to capture the color of her curls. Hershey bars and beer bottles for my bob.

I hung it on the wall next to my bed. I've been staring at it, trying to figure out how she glued all those tiny pieces of paper so they would come together to re-create my favorite photo: Hope and me at four a.m.-wide awake and laughing, waiting to sneak out to watch the sunrise.

I remember that summer sleepover at Hope's house two and a half years ago more vividly than anything I did today.

We watched the video of her Little Miss Superstar dance recital. She was the most coordinated of the dozen or so yellowbikini-clad four-year-olds shuffle-ball-changing to a Beach Boys medley. (Hope's review: Hello, JonBenèt Ramsey!)

We tried to outdo each other in round after round of "What Would You Do?" Eat nothing but fish sticks OR wear head-to-toe *NSYNC paraphernalia for the rest of your life? French kiss your dog, Dali?, OR have sex with the Chaka, the Special Ed. King? Be zit free forever OR fill a D-cup bra?

We flipped through our eighth-grade yearbook and decided that being voted Class Brainiac (me) and Class Artist (her) just about guaranteed geekdom in high school. We thought that Brainiac Who Will Actually Make Something of Her Life and Not End Up Managing a 7-Eleven and Artist Who Will Contribute More to This World Than Misspelled Graffiti sounded so much better. Then we literally rolled on the rug laughing as we stripped other Class Characters of their titles and gave them what they really deserved . . .

Scotty Glazer: from Most Athletic to Most Middle-Aged Yet Totally Immature

Bridget Milhokovich: from Best Looking to Best Bet She'll Peak Too Soon

Manda Powers: from Biggest Flirt to Most Likely to End Up on Jerry Springer

Sara D'Abruzzi: from Class Motormouth to Future Double Agent Who Would Betray Her Country for Liposuction.

Mrs. Weaver made German pancakes with lemon juice and confectioners' sugar for breakfast. Hope's then-sixteen-year-old brother, Heath, snorted the powdery sugar up his nose and imitated some crazy seventies comedian all hopped up on coke. This made me laugh so hard I thought my stomach was going to come out my ears. I felt bad when Hope later explained to me why she and her mom weren't so amused by his antics. And when Heath died of a heroin overdose six months ago, I felt even worse.

My brother would've been in the same grade as Heath. Hope and I always thought that was a really freaky coincidence. I never knew him, though. Matthew Michael Darling died when he was only two weeks old. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. No one in my family talks about him. Ever.

Mr. and Mrs. Weaver made countless excuses for the sudden move back to their tiny hometown (Wellgoode, Tennessee: Population 6,345, uh, make that 6,348). They had to get Hope down there in time to start the third marking period. They had to move in with Hope's grandmother so they could afford to pay for college. But Hope and I saw through the lies. We knew the truth-even if we never said it out loud. The Weavers wanted to get Hope out of Pineville, New Jersey (pop. 32,000, give or take three people), so she wouldn't end up like her brother. Dead at eighteen.

Now I-I mean, we, Hope and me-have to pay for his mistakes. It's not fair. I know this may sound a little selfish, but couldn't they have waited another seventeen days? Couldn't they have waited until after my birthday?

I told my parents not to even dare throwing me a Sweet Sixteen party. The very thought of ice-cream cake and pink crepe paper makes me want to hurl. Not to mention the fact that I can't even imagine who would be on the guest list since I hate all my other friends. I know my parents think I'm being ridiculous. But if the one person I want to be there can't be there, I'd rather just stay home. And mope. Or sleep.

Besides, I have never been sweet. Maybe not never, but definitely not after the age of three. That's when my baby blond hair suddenly darkened-and my attitude went with it. (Which is why my dad's nickname for me is "Notso" as in, Jessica Not-So-Darling.) Whenever anyone tried to talk to me I'd yell BOR-ING and run away. I probably picked it up from my sister, Bethany, who was fourteen at the time and spent hours in front of the mirror rolling her eyes and practicing pissy looks to advertise her so-called angst. Of course, the difference between Bethany and me is that I've never had to practice.
Megan McCafferty

About Megan McCafferty

Megan McCafferty - Sloppy Firsts

Photo © Christopher McCafferty

MEGAN McCAFFERTY is the New York Times bestselling author of the Jessica Darling series. She lives in New Jersey.
Praise | Awards


“Such a sharp, funny, poignant heroine, with an inner world we can all relate to. I love it.”—Sophie Kinsella, author of Confessions of a Shopaholic

Sloppy Firsts captures, in spare, truthful prose, the exquisite pain and ecstasy of being besotted by your best friend. The reader may flinch, but Megan McCafferty never does.”
—Emma Forrest, author of Namedropper

Sloppy Firsts is a spirited, down-the-rabbit-hole adventure in the madcap subculture of high school. With remarkable insight, tenderness, and wit, Megan McCafferty offers us a compassionate, clear-eyed tale of how a sassy young woman survives teenage-hood.”
—Laurie Fox, author of My Sister from the Black Lagoon

“Sloppy Firsts perfectly captures the turbulent roller-coaster ride that is being a teenager. This is an (at times) intimate, painfully honest peek at a girl’s coming of age. Getting to know Jessica was like meeting a new best friend. I miss her already.”
—Atoosa Rubenstein, editor in chief of CosmoGirl!


WINNER YALSA Best Books for Young Adults
WINNER New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age
About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions

About the Guide

When her best friend, Hope Weaver, moves away from Pineville, New Jersey, sixteen-year-old Jessica Darling is devastated. Smart, sarcastic, and hyperobservant, Jessica is a fish out of water in her high school, and Hope was the only one who understood her. How is she ever going to deal with the shallow boy- and shopping-crazy girls at school, her lame parents, and her nonexistent love life without Hope around to help? Sloppy Firsts is a fresh, funny, insightful look at one year in the life of Jessica Darling, taking Jessica from the dark days of Hope's departure through her struggles to fit in at high school and in her own family.

Jessica feels like a stranger in her own home, and a stranger at school, where the only person who seems able to break through the wall of frustration she has erected around herself is the class "Dreg." Marcus Flutie. Intelligent, mysterious, and a troublemaker, Marcus works his way into Jessica's life. But is he the love of her (teenage) life or is it Scotty, the old friend and now hunk who likes her, but whom she can't seem to like back?

Megan McCafferty has written an utterly compelling look at high-school life that is at once sophisticated, insightful, and amazingly authentic-in this remarkable book she pays homage to some of the great teen crossover works of popular culture, from John Hughes movies to MTV's Daria to My So-Called Life.

About the Author

Megan McCafferty graduated with honors from Columbia University. She was a senior articles editor at Cosmopolitan and has written articles for CosmoGIRL!, YM, Glamour, Maxim, Fitness, and Shape. She developed a fiction serial on twistmagazine.com featuring her characters Hope Weaver and Jessica Darling and currently writes "The Annabelle Chronicles," a new web storyline for Elle Girl. Megan lives in New Jersey with her husband.

Discussion Guides

1. Family Relationships
Describe the relationship between Jessica and her father. Who puts more pressure on Jessica about running, her father or herself? Is track the only thing these two have in common?

2. Discuss how Jessica and her older sister, Bethany, relate to each other and to their mother. Are any of these relationships healthy?

3. Both Jessica and Hope have lost their older brothers. Discuss how each family dealt with the death. Will Hope understand Jessica's new relationship with Marcus?

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