With her high school days behind her, Jessica Darling is in college in New York, struggling to move forward with her life while continuing her relationship with Marcus and her friendship with Hope. Unfortunately, it’s not easy, with Marcus in California and Hope in Rhode Island. As her college experiences continue, she finds it harder to hang on to the things that mattered to her when she was in high school.
Unlike the other books in the Jessica Darling series, Charmed Thirds takes place over the course of several years, rather than just one. It begins the summer after Jessica has completed her first year of college, and continues through to winter of her senior year at Columbia. Most of the action of the novel takes place during winter and spring breaks, and I think (though I could be misremembering this) that Jessica states she doesn’t have time to write in her journals during the semester because she’s too busy with classes, and instead, the audience picks up bits and pieces of what happens to her during the semester when she tells someone else about it or remembers it.
Because the story skips around a lot, there are definite holes in the narrative, holes that didn’t exist in the first two novels. One of the most interesting things about these books is the fact that Jessica overanalyzes everything, and so the audience is really able to get inside her head. But that level of intimacy is missing in this novel. Things just move too fast for it. And because of that, Jessica does things in the novel that seem wholly unlike Jessica. I know that people change from high school to college (I certainly did), but without her analysis, it just seemed out of character.
On the other hand, because McCafferty chose to focus on Jessica’s life during breaks from school, she was able to keep some of the truly entertaining background characters in place, such as Bridget, Percy, Sara, and Scotty. And the novel is certainly better for it, because the Pineville characters were some of Jessica’s best foils.
Another thing that I noticed in this novel was that Jessica really did grow up. Rather than Jessica thinking about how things affected her, she began to think more about other people (such as realizing that her parents put their lives on hold for thirty years to raise her and her older sister, Bethany, but they were still real people who had been married a long time and knew each other really well). And for me, it was great to see this development.
Overall, I definitely don’t think this book was on par with Sloppy Firsts (review) or Second Helpings (review), but it was still a very good book. McCafferty is fast becoming one of my favorite authors (and I hesitate to label her as a young adult author, because while the first two books are young adult, and this one is to an extent as well, I highly suspect the final two novels in the series won’t really be young adult novels). I’m still very much looking forward to reading those final two books in the next few weeks or so.
Rating: 4 stars
Qualifying Challenges: 100 Books, Countdown Challenge, YA Challenge, Spring Reading Thing
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