Goodbye Perfect, Hello Sloppy

PERFECT FIFTHS by Megan McCafferty is the final book in the five book “Jessica Darling” series aimed at young adult women. Finally reading this book was a big deal for me. I’ve been holding myself back from cracking it open for more than a year.

I starved myself for so long for lots of reasons.  When it was published, Gabe (my producer) and I were in the midst of trying to option the first Jessica Darling novel, SLOPPY FIRSTS, so that I could write the adaptation. When I first read the first two books while in grad school, I knew immediately that I wanted to them into a film. Five years later, it scared me to know how Jessica’s story ended in PERFECT FIFTHS without knowing if my story with her was going to begin. It’d be heartbreaking enough not having the opportunity to bring Jessica Darling to the screen. I didn’t want to deepen my understanding of this character while mid-turning point in my “relationship” with her.

When we got the rights, Gabe promptly read the fifth book. I continued to deprive myself. I had to write the screenplay and the screenplay only would cover book one…not the ten years covered in the span of the series. My perspective needed to be contained to the present, the “now,” of the screenplay. I could lie and say that I did not want to know how Jessica’s friendships played out ten years later or who Jessica was going to become after that pivotal year documented in SLOPPY FIRSTS because I wanted to preserve clarity in my perspective on Jessica at 16… but really, I didn’t want to know how Megan ended (or began?) Marcus and Jessica’s relationship in the final novel. Together? Not together? Letting the question be unanswered fueled my devotion to capturing how it (their love) all began in the first place.

Then, I finished the screenplay.

And just like Marcus Flutie, PERFECT FIFTHS became a forbidden fruit in my life. I wanted it. Oh, man, I wanted to read that book. I’d heard the rumors about the book’s story and form and even heard Megan discuss the differences in a book signing. And, of course, I was dying to know how Marcus and Jessica were doing.

BUT I also knew that those pages were like black rhinos. Precious, endangered species. That book represented the last time I’d ever experience a new Jessica+Marcus moment. The number of never-before-read interactions between Jessica and Marcus were quantifiable – 255 pages. Did I really want to pillage the last remaining treasure chest?

So I waited a while longer… put the book on the nightstand. Put it back on the shelf. Put it in my bag. Put it back on the shelf. Started a biography on Grace Kelly. Didn’t finish the biography on Grace Kelly.

Finally, after a successful week of shooting in LA, feeling so happy and proud to be a director, and, buzzing about the impending “release date” of the SLOPPY FIRSTSscreenplay, I felt it was time. I was ready for the final chapters.  Ready to see how Megan, who knows Jessica and Marcus better than anyone in the world, ended their story. Ready to know who these characters I love became while I was busy re-telling their story for the screen. So with Gabe sitting next to me on our way to the shoot in Miami, I opened PERFECT FIFTHS.

And I loved it. For any fan of the series, it was brimming with insider callbacks and references that remind you why so many of McCafferty’s readers consider Jessica Darling a best friend. I appreciated the change in voice — told in 3rd person instead of 1st person diary entries as the previous books — for finally giving me a peek into the hilariously honest, surprisingly insecure, and surprisingly confused brain of my favorite poet/addict manwhore Marcus Flutie. I don’t think I ever loved Marcus as much as I did in this book… you might say the same for Jessica.

I read, and I laughed and cried and gasped and stupid-grinned ear-to-ear and tried not to skip ahead to the end. Yet, when I got to the final pages, I slowed down, savoring the last time each word would be new, forming a new sentence, a new thought, a new plot point, a new reveal, a new reason to love both these characters. I am so glad Megan wrote this last book.

As for the SLOPPY FIRSTS of it, I think in saying goodbye to Marcus and Jessica in PERFECT FIFTHS, my devotion to these characters is renewed and my instincts on why they are worthy of the silver screen is yet again confirmed. Let’s hope I’m not the only one.

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One Response to “Goodbye Perfect, Hello Sloppy”

  1. Briel K. Says:

    Yay, you finally read it!

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