Friday, May 08, 2009

It Hurts My Soul

Sloppy Firsts was some good stuff. Megan McCafferty did something amazing and impressive with Jessica Darling, and she sustained it through four books. Not, alas, through five.

I'm trying really hard to read Perfect Fifths, the final Jessica Darling installment, and it's just not happening for me. In fact, it's dragging me down. The interesting thing is that it's told in the third person instead of the first, but uses the exact same voice as the first four books, all of which were in journal form.

This was a major mistake on her part. I understand that she wanted to include the Marcus parts, and doing those in third person would have been fine. But the thing about Jessica is that she's a hyper, emotional, hyperemotional drama queen. Reading things from her point of view is part sympathy, part watching-NASCAR-for-the-accidents fascination. We love her through and because of her weird super-intellectual pop-culture melancoly verbosity. But when it's a third person narrator--presumably the author--talking like that, WE HATE HER.

Hate hate hate. Jessica's having a really bad day in this book, fine. It's kind of her own fault (just get up in time to catch your freaking plane, how hard is it?), but if I was inside her head, I'd be watching her self-flagellate and could forgive her. From outside her head (and yeah, I get a peek at her thoughts, but it's not the same), I have to take up the whip, because man, someone has to talk some sense into this girl.

As for Marcus, he's never quite made sense, but in that way that the male love interest never quite makes sense in stories like this. Because he's so infuriating but so perfect, sigh. He's all Zen and stuff. I actually liked his character (not as a person but as a literary accomplishment) most in Fourth Comings, when we finally see some of his flaws--his drifting through life is not about really being above it all and grounded but unable to find true meaning. It's about thinking you're all that. Anyone that Zen at 24 is an ass.

I read a very interesting story once. It was an English translation of a Czech (if I recall correctly) horror/fantasy story, which basically follows the story of Cinderella, if Cinderella was a dim and unknowing mortal whose stepfamily was older and more powerful than she could possibly imagine. The stepsister, who is the heroine of this story, is virtually immortal, and is often accused by Cinderella of being vain and shallow. The stepsister observes that she spent centuries seeking truth in philosophy and natural science, trying to understand the meaning of things through study and deep thought. And now, millenia later, the only things that bring her pleasure, that get her through the day, are the small vanities: grooming herself. Eating fine foods. Small sensualities that, in the end, mean more than all the meaning mortals search for.

What I'm getting at is that the meditating 25 year old in your sophomore class might be less typical than you are, but it doesn't make him more profound. I'm not Marcus's biggest fan.

1 comment:

JMLC said...

I have to say, I loved the first few books but by the 4th, I was done, for mostly the reasons you've stated. I've been toying with picking up fifths, just because I'd like to know how it ends but can't quite make it happen.