Monday, February 3, 2014

Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty

Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty is the fourth in the Jessica Darling series and in some ways redeems some of the flaws in the previous two books while still having a few flaws of its own.  The novel picks up shortly after the third book ends, with Jessica filling in a blank book given to her at the end of the third book.  Rather than the usual journal entries, this book is written to the person who gave her the book.  Having graduated from college, Jessica is trying to step boldly into being an independent adult which is, unfortunately, easier said than done.  She lives with two of her friends from previous books (but don’t count on learning much more about Hope as a character) while coming to terms with her love life.

It isn’t easy writing about this series at this point without giving away spoilers so, if I seem a bit vague, please forgive me.  Something happened towards the end of the third novel that I found distasteful with one of the characters manipulating Jessica that would infuriate me if it were done to someone I knew in real life.  That is ultimately resolved in this fourth book but it takes a while to get there.

The first few “entries” in the book were a bit contrived.  Imagine someone has given you a book and you are writing to that someone.  Now, you and this someone have a conversation and you promise to think things over, which you are now doing in writing in the book, with the intention of giving that same someone the book in a week.  Why then would you waste time writing about the conversation you just had with the person?  Unless you know the person has a piss poor memory, aren’t they going to read this a week later and remember the conversation? 

Obviously, the sole purpose in contriving to have Jessica record the conversation is for the reader to have a context for what follows.  It is clunky, awkward, illogical and unfortunately necessary, I suppose.  I think a good editor would have pointed out this rather glaring flaw in the narrative logic and suggested the author come up with something more reasonable even if it were to have Jessica have a conversation with one of her three roommates that tells the reader the same thing.  Yes, it would have been an obvious bit of exposition but it would have at least made some sense.  But knowing that the person to whom Jessica is writing quite probably remembers the conversation verbatim, there is no reason for her to bother writing it all out and I couldn’t help but get caught up in the obvious flaw.

Another problem I found with the logistics of this particular novel is that Jessica writes a lot in very few days.  How did she have the time to fill two notebooks in a week’s time and still have time to go to a club, a party, an art gallery opening, have a job interview, see her family, etc., and still find time to write about it in detail?  Not probable or even possible. 

Regardless, I still found myself caught up in Jessica and her story.  Sure, I still have no clue what to make of any of the flat characters that fill her life but Jessica herself is fun and believable.  How she responds to her life, her circumstances, makes sense because she is both young and smart, candid with herself even when she’s writing to an audience.  No, not the many readers out there, that conversation that spans pages 21-36, but the someone who is supposed to read be reading the book at the end of the week, that special someone who must have the worst memory ever.  Yes, I’ll be reading the fifth book and I think I’ll enjoy it in spite of any flaws I may find. 

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