Sloppy Firsts

cover image for Sloppy FirstsMcCafferty, Megan. (2001) Sloppy Firsts. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.

Plot Summary:

With her best friend Hope by her side, Jessica “Not-so” Darling can brave anything – even high school.  But when tragedy prompts Hope’s parents to move out of state, Jessica is left alone with friends she doesn’t really like, a sister who cares only about her upcoming wedding, a mother who wishes she was more like her sister, and a father who treats her like the son he had – and lost.  To make matters worse, she suddenly finds herself entangled with the boy that Hope’s parents blame for their son’s death.  Can Hope and Jessica’s friendship survive the distance and secrets?

Critical Evaluation:

Sloppy Firsts did not drive me quite as crazy as The Perks of Being a Wallflower did, largely owing to the better quality of writing and Jessica’s presence in her own life, but I had similar issues with it.  Why do we never see Hope’s letters back to Jessica? Or see Jessica mention them more than just a handful of times?  Jessica is at least more self-aware than Charlie was (to be fair, she is also older) and tries to take charge more often (although often in very passive aggressive ways) but she still lacks personality for much of the book (sarcasm is not a substitute for substance).  The story improved as it went on, but it feels like it could have been a bit shorter and still as interesting.

Reader’s Annotation:

Can Hope and Jessica’s friendship survive tragedy, distance, and secret boyfriends?

Author Information:



Sex and Sexuality

Booktalking Ideas:

(bang my head against a wall that I have to booktalk this book?)

Since it’s not a good idea to booktalk books you don’t like or connect to, I would probably focus on the part I did like and connect to the most, which was Jessica’s use of running at night to find peace and her relationship with her parents, especially her father and how he communicated by focusing on her running.  I would likely start by asking teens to imagine sneaking out to run like she did.  I would then include enough of the rest of the plot so that potential readers don’t get the wrong impression about the book’s focus.

Reading Level/Target Age:

6th grade/15-24

Potential Controversy:

I’m not sure there is anything in this book that wouldn’t be controversial to someone, which is a large part of why it is often shelved with the adult fiction even though it will interest many teen readers.  Unfortunately, it may also be difficult to defend it’s placement in a teen collection, rather than adult collection, because of that precedent.

Reasons for Choosing This Title:

This is one of many crossover books that I have heard a lot of buzz about, but had never read.


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