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Jessica Darling is back for her senior year of high school. After spending the summer at S.P.E.C.I.A.L. (Summer Pre-College Enrichment Curriculum in Artistic Learning), she finds herself re-evaluating her previous college plans (Amherst, Piedmont, Swathmore, or Williams) in favor of attending Columbia, where her former crush, Paul Parlipiano, goes. But in the days immediately following September 11, she knows it’s going to be impossible to convince her parents to let her go to school in New York City. Meanwhile, she’s still missing Hope, and trying hard to forget Marcus Flutie, who she spends half the novel referring to as He Who Shall Remain Nameless. As the novel progresses, Jessica learns that she doesn’t have it quite as together as she thinks she does- and she’s not always right about her life and the people in it.

The second novel in the Jessica Darling series was just as good as the first, in my opinion. She’s lost none of her snarky spark, and though she’s adjusted to life without Hope, she still misses her, and that’s a theme throughout the novel.

As I basically said in my review of Sloppy Firsts, I think Jessica Darling might be the best heroine in young adult literature. She’s not perfect, or so badly maladjusted that she’s impossible to like. She’s a little self-centered, and a little heavy on the angst, but McCafferty makes sure there are characters in the novel who make her aware of her shortcomings.

One of the things that really intrigues me is that Jessica is basically the same age as me. Major events that happened my senior year of high school, also happened Jessica’s senior year (September 11), and so I remember things like that coloring my world view and the way my parents treated me (though I already knew I was going to community college rather than a four year university after school, they still got a lot more protective in the months immediately following).

By the end of the novel, you can really see how Jessica has grown since the start of the novel, and certainly since the start of the series. She has a deeper appreciation for some of her friends, particularly Bridget, and she’s a bit more level-headed than she previously was.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Charmed Thirds, and anticipate I will sooner rather than later.

Buy Second Helpings on Amazon

Pages: 349
Rating: 4.5 stars
Qualifying Challenges: 100 Books, Countdown Challenge, 999 Challenge, Young Adult Challenge, Winter Reading Challenge
999 Category: Young Adult

See my review of Sloppy Firsts here.