Flashbook Friday

Flashbook Friday: Fourth Comings

Pre-Reread Thoughts

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As usual, there will be spoilers for this and previous installments of the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty, my absolute FAVORITE YA series of all time.

Okay, THIS is the installment where we actually see Hope and Jessica interacting for more than one chapter! Fourth Comings follows Jessica into the post-grad hell of job searching and apartment hunting. She and Hope live together (I believe Manda becomes one of their roomies as well) in New York City. Marcus is also around. There’s a proposal or two.

That’s all I remember.

Out of the whole series, this wasn’t one of my favorites, which I said about Charmed Thirds, too. Upon Rereading Charmed Thirds, I had a newfound appreciation for it because of life experiences I’ve had since the last time I read the book. Perhaps the same will be true for Fourth Comings since I’ve been more-or-less unsuccessfully in the workforce for six years, and this book focuses on Jessica’s post-grad life.

Teenage Rating: 4 out of 5 awkward interviews

Post-Reread Thoughts

As you might guess from the cover photo, Fourth Comings focuses on marriage. Nine months since we last saw Jessica and Marcus reunite, Marcus has barely set up his dorm at Princeton to begin his freshman year of undergrad when he proposes to Jessica. If you’re a Jessica Darling fan, this might have you squeeing, but let me assure you that squee is in vain. Jessica arrived at Marcus’s dorm intent on breaking up with him. Their series-long friction due to Marcus’s inscrutable mind and Jessica’s frenzied need to unearth all of his mysteries has reached its breaking point. After Jessica’s lackluster reaction to the proposal, Marcus tells her to take a week to think about it.

Unlike the previous books, which were written as private diary entries, Fourth Comings is written in entries meant for Marcus’s eyes. Jessica has the two blank notebooks Marcus gave her last year as she and Hope set off for a cross-country adventure to visit America’s most uniquely named towns. Before they could check Day 1 off their road-trip itinerary, their car is jacked along with the box of journals Marcus kept during the three years of his and Jessica’s separation. The carjacking robs Jessica of finally gaining insight to the inner workings of Marcus’s mind and he continues to be reserved, much to her annoyance.

Jessica returns to the sublet she shares with Hope, Manda, and Manda’s girlfriend Shea in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She hopes to hash out her mangled thoughts with Hope, but is disappointed to find that Hope is spending much of her time in her art studio preparing for an exhibit. Jessica’s journals act as her soundboard yet again. She spends her week of indecision analyzing all the relationships around her, trying to find arguments for and against marrying Marcus:

  • Jessica’s parents barely talk ever since her Mom’s home-staging business took off
  • Scotty and Sara are expecting an unexpected bundle of joy out of wedlock
  • Jessica’s sister Bethany is raising her child virtually alone because her husband is always working
  • Manda is dating a woman who acts like a pubescent boy
  • The women in Bethany’s Park Slope mommy crew have imperfect husbands
  • Bridget and Percy have postponed their marriage until gays can marry, too

Almost every situation proves marriage would be a mistake. Can Jessica be in a relationship with a college FRESHMAN? Won’t Marcus get bored with her when he has a constant stream of social obligations that come with college? Can she deal with visiting him every weekend or will she have to uproot her life and move to Princeton? Are a snarky city girl and a Zen reformed addict even compatible?

When Jessica isn’t freaking out about the future of her relationship, she’s freaking out over her lack of a “real” job. She works at home for a psychology magazine that pays an hourly wage, and babysits her niece Marin for $300 a week. Jessica and her roomies are lucky Manda’s aunt is one of the owners of the apartment they’re subletting and their weekly rent is $500, but she still feels like a bit of a failure. She’s only able to afford her miniscule rent because of her babysitting gig, which feels like a handout. Working at home has its perks, but she finds herself longing for the mundane trappings of an office to feel like she’s reached adulthood.

What has always appealed to me about the Jessica Darling series is that it tackles real life young adulthood issues in a realistic fashion. Sure, the fact that a book was written about Jessica and her friends by their socialite classmate, Jessica’s friend Bridget’s music video “ho” moment, and $500 rent in NYC are a bit outlandish, but the heart of the series is authentic and not always what the reader is hoping will happen. I try not to drag other books series but let me break that for a moment and call out New Moon. The purpose of breaking Edward and Bella up was to create superficial drama. Edward did it to protect Bella and then they both moped for the whole book. In Fourth Comings as Jessica contemplates breaking up with Marcus, she considers her options with as clear a head as she’s going to get. She considers their relationship up to this point with all its perfect imperfections and realizes that even though she loves this man, love isn’t enough to overcome their differences. Jessica weighs her options and realizes Marcus doesn’t seem to have considered her when making his life plans.

Why should Jessica have to uproot her life to be with someone who waited until he was twenty-three to go to an accredited college? Why should she put herself second for a relationship that might not even work out? Their rift is not the usual romanticized falling out over something petty. Instead, their issues are serious and rooted to their personalities and values. Jessica loves the city. Marcus hates it. Jessica needs to talk out her thoughts and emotions. Marcus wants to conserve his words and only speak with necessity. Jessica is trying to find her way through the post-graduate job market. Marcus is living in a dorm with an 18-year-old from Alabama and playing frisbee on the quad.

The choice Jessica makes is not an easy one, and it takes discussions with her family and friends, job interviews, and finding out more about Marcus’s childhood to bring her to her final decision. Jessica isn’t perfect, her life isn’t perfect, and her perfect relationship is imperfect. She’s in a state of flux that hit home for me. She feels unsuccessful because she’s practically living on handouts from her family, she found a job that allows her to use her major but it pays pennies, and she interviews for jobs that pay more but aren’t appealing to her. It’s difficult trying to remain true to your interests while striving to finally reach society’s definition of adulthood, even more so when you throw in an unwanted proposal from your flighty boyfriend.

I often wonder how people are able to maintain relationships in their twenties because my twenties have been about learning to deal with myself. Figuring out what you want in life and carving out your place in the adult world takes precedence over a relationship, and so much “chick lit” focuses on the opposite. It’s refreshing to see a female protagonist in her twenties who’s trying to get her shit together and doesn’t need a boyfriend to help her do that. I’m still in flux and watching Jessica go through the same thing made me feel less alone. Part of becoming an adult is making difficult choices and putting aside what your heart wants in favor of what’s best for you. Sometimes you have to pause your romantic life to improve yourself, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Adulthood Rating: 5 out of 5 drag queens named after the rainbow

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