My friends all know when I'm reading a new Megan McCafferty book: I can't stop texting them quotes from her addictively sarcastic heroine, Jessica Darling.

Candy-colored book covers often indicate saccharine heroines too focused on chasing new purses and cute guys to develop real character, but McCafferty allows Jessica to grow up, taking her from age 16 to 26 through the five-book series that culminates in Perfect Fifths. Without getting stuck in either the Young Adult or Chick Lit category, McCafferty competes with Gossip Girl and Bridget Jones--and holds her own.

For a character like Jessica, a cookie-cutter ending would be a disgrace, and luckily Perfect Fifths avoids this pitfall. Fans of Marcus Flutie, Jessica's on-again-off-again boyfriend and, some would argue, soul mate, will be glad to see he's back in a major way, actually narrating half the story. We find Marcus finally emerged from his monk-like meditations, and he's as sexy and smart as ever. The adult Jessica is mellower, but she hasn't lost her fierce wit or talent for hilarious cultural commentary. McCafferty has put her in a job suited to her talent and her quest for authentic meaning, assuring us about Jessica's future without forcing her into a sugary-sweet happily-ever-after.

Years of Cinderella stories and romantic comedy kisses have trained me to hope that love will prevail, and I thought I needed this semi-star-crossed couple to end up together. I'm not about to spoil the ending, but it turns out what I really wanted was a well-matched conversation between Jessica and Marcus, something that readers haven't seen since they were teenagers back in Second Helpings. In that, McCafferty certainly delivers.

Jessica Darling is a smart heroine who doesn't lose her head--or her skirt--over every possible Prince Charming. She mocks relentlessly, but she also loves wholeheartedly. McCafferty convinces readers that it's OK to be witty and smart, and that even a hard-line cynic can be a bit of a romantic in the end.
 

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