“Second Helpings,” by Megan McCafferty

“Second Helpings” opens with the summer before Jessica (Notso) Darling’s senior year of high school and continues through the school year. The book follows the format of its predecessor, giving us a recounted view of Jessica’s life through her journal.

Jessica, my favorite fictional cynic, still thinks she has the world figured out. Truth be told, what teenager doesn’t? Jessica, however, Knows The Facts and is continuously baffled when the world turns out to be somewhat of alternate reality, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst. These truthful revelations help Jessica do a whole lot of growing in “Second Helpings.” She finds independence, a love life and learns more about her friends and family, including Gladdie, Jessica’s hilarious grandmother.

BLAH. This book review sucks, and I think it sucks so hard because I’m tiptoeing through particulars, trying not to mention a single detail that would spoil the book for ALL YOU LOSERS WHO HAVEN’T READ IT YET.

I say “losers” with serious, serious love.

Let me be straight with you. I loved “Second Helpings” more than “Sloppy Firsts,” and the series as a whole is one that pretty much blows my mind. I wouldn’t call it groundbreaking, high-brow literary classics in the making, but I connect with these books on such a personal level. There are times when I’m reading this and I SWEAR Megan McCafferty could have snatched a piece of my brain for Jessica. Her cynical sense of humor is just my style, and the time period in which the books are set so closely parallel my own at Jessica’s age.

Ah, crap. Look. If you love to laugh, if you can put your adult hat away and take a trip to TeenagerLand, you need to read these books. You. Yes, You.

“Suite Scarlett,” by Maureen Johnson

When people hear a book is labeled YA, most will automatically assume it’s poorly written brain candy meant to entertain a dumb pre-teen.

Most? You are mostly wrong.

Suite Scarlett may fall more under the YA fluff category, but it certainly isn’t dumb. It is, however, delicious brain candy.

Scarlett is a 15-year-old girl living in a New York City hotel. If you’re thinking of Eloise, you’re right. Sort of.

Scarlett’s family is down on their luck, and the hotel no longer employs a staff. The hotel is completely run by Scarlett and her parents, her older brother, Spencer, her older sister, Lola, and her younger sister, Marlene. (Quick note, Marlene is the name the mother of four good friends I’ve known for eons and the middle name of one of their daughters, a girl who has owned a piece of my heart for nearly five years – this is the only time aside from those two – that I’ve heard the name. I loved seeing it!)

The summer Scarlett turned 15, she was expecting to find a job to occupy her time, as her friends were all away for the summer. Plans change when the mysterious Amy Amberson checks into the room of which Scarlett is in charge.

Suddenly, Scarlett has a strange yet perfect job, and she shares affections with a gorgeous, older boy. What started out seeming like a boring summer turns into one of hilarity, fun and growth.

This book would be absolutely perfect for a beach- or pool-side read. Scarlett is sweet and funny, and I developed a wee crush on Spencer. It’s a fast, fun read, and Maureen Johnson (who I have a serious girl-crush on) brings the funny throughout. I’m looking forward to finding out what happens in “Scarlett Fever,” which was just recently released. Why? BECAUSE MAUREEN JOHNSON IS A DIRTY CLIFFHANGER-WRITER.

p.s. Amy Amberson? She was totally Jenna Maroney from “30 Rock” in my head. It was unavoidable.

“King of the Screwups,” by K.L. Going

Liam is a screwup. He doesn’t think past his nose, and his words and actions constantly get him in trouble or earn disapproval. The story is told from Liam’s point of view, and a good portion of the book is spent in Liam’s dreams or reflections of past screwups.

Liam’s problem is painfully obvious. He has a horrible self esteem – due in large part to an overly judgmental and verbally abusive father – and his number-one goal is to earn the admiration or approval of others rather than to succeed for himself. Constantly basing one’s actions on others’ reactions is guaranteeing failure, as one cannot control¬† – no matter what action one takes – the reaction of others. Because Liam is so focused elsewhere, he can’t focus on making sound decisions.

Honestly, I found the book frustrating. It was well written, but I have a thing with books: What I feel for the main character is what I feel for the book.

I wanted to both shake and slap Liam.

He is good-looking, talented, charming and smart, but he completely lacks when he focuses on doing something. He’s fine when he doesn’t try, so he is basically his own worst enemy.

I’m certainly not the perfect example of confidence, but the personality flaw that allows people (both fictional and actual) to only believe the worst they’re told about themselves – well, it’s frustrating.


Thankfully, Liam gets a wakeup call in the form of his uncle, a cross-dressing, gay glam rocker. Aunt Pete was my favorite part of the book, and every unsure person needs their own Aunt Pete to show them the error in their ways and the value of self acceptance and self confidence.

Up next: “1776,” by David McCullough

2 Responses to Three in one: 'Second Helpings,' 'Suite Scarlett,' & 'King of the Screwups'

  1. Jennifer says:

    Love the review for Second Helpings…you, yes, you! good one!

    • Jenny says:

      I just couldn’t help squeezing that in – both for me and as a treat from the cool people who know what I’m talking about. :-)

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