When Jessica’s best friend Hope moves away, she’s not sure how she’s going to fill the void. Her remaining girlfriends don’t always share her feelings and certainly don’t share her intelligence, in fact she’s dubbed them “The Clueless Crew.” Jess even feels like an outsider in her own family where her mother and sister share a special bond and she suspects her father wishes she were a boy. There’s new girl, Hy, who promises to make things interesting, especially because not everything she says quite adds up. And then there’s Marcus Flutie. A known drug user, Marcus had been friends with Hope’s brother. But Hope’s brother is dead and Jess feels like a traitor talking to anyone who was a part of his world. It’s just that she can’t help it. Marcus is kind of fascinating. And there’s definitely chemistry. And if you think you’re going to get any type of resolution in this book, you’re wrong, because it’s one of the most cliff-hangery (just made that word up) books I’ve read. If you’re at all liking it about three-quarters of the way through, find a way to get the next one in the series so you can just keep reading!
So. Before we get to the nitty-gritty, allow me to say that thank heavens I’d already read this book, because it stopped making sense when I had to pause every three words and record something as potentially offensive. This is book is not for anyone who doesn’t want their children reading about sex, drugs, alcohol, death or profanity. It is chock full of all of the above. To itemize it properly would require a very detailed and long post. You’re going to have to live with the Reader’s Digest version lest I retype the book word for word and get sued by McCafferty for copyright infringement.
With content like this, why would anyone let their kids read this book? Well, it’s reasonable question. The fact is, that for lots of teens, this looks a lot more like their world than the idealized innocence some hold out hope for. They have sexually active friends and feel a mix of desire and pressure and confusion about becoming sexually active themselves. They know people who drink or do drugs and make choices about whether or not they are going to use themselves. They pretend to be people that they are not – going along to get along. They worry that they are failures, or disappointments to their parents and friends. Sloppy Firsts deals with so many of these issues. Jessica is a good main character. A world of bad choices swirls around her and while she doesn’t always make the best choices, she’s usually more reflective about things than her friends.
Great for: Adults who want to read YA. Also as a glimpse inside high school. If you’re okay with the content, it’s really a great book.
Body Image – If you’re writing a no holds barred look at teenagers, you’re going to have to deal with anorexia and bulimia. Jess is certainly aware of these tendencies in other girls but has no interest herself.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – This book covers sex. From kissing to the whole shebang and everything in between. We know who does what with whom as well as when and where. The writing can be graphic, including “fucking the shit” out of someone, getting “sucked off”, as well as mentions of erections, the clitoris and penis). The topic of how experienced various characters are is a common one and includes people misrepresenting their sexual history. Breasts are fair game from size to implants, to a radio show that tells girls to flash their “titties”. The sexual nature of girls clothes is discussed, including the terms “hooker” and “hobag” to talk about how girls look. There’s a discussion of female grooming habits for the bikini region. Sexual daydreams and masturbation are brought up, both male and female (including details of a rather public masturbation) as well as orgasm. There’s more than one instance of statutory rape, including when a 15 year old loses her virginity in Cancun to a 21 year old while her friend is in the room having sexual relations with another guy. While some of her friends condone this, others point out that it is statutory rape even if she was willing. For all the sexuality and sexual content in this book, there is some teen reflection about actions. Protection during sex is certainly mentioned and at one point when a guy is propositioning Jess, we’re privvy to what’s running through her head, including a list of all the things a guy should know about her if this was someone she was going to sleep with). Sexuality is questioned as a slur, but also a character comes out.
Profanity – “ass”, “pissy/pissed”, “damn/damned”, “sucks” “Omigod”, “hobag”, The bird is flipped. “goddamned”, “bitch”, “mother effer”, “screw”, “Jesus Christ,” “fucking,” “hell,” “Whiggaz” (in case you need a translator for this it is a contraction of White and N*ggars) it’s not used as a swear but yeah. It is. “shit”, “pussy”, “fag,”
Death, Violence and Gore – Hope’s brother died of a drug overdose. Jessica had a brother who died of SIDS as a baby. She reflects on this quite a bit. A boy is injured when he throws bullets into a bonfire to try to make fireworks. Tip – It doesn’t work and the bullets um, shoot you. There’s a catfight including hair pulling, fingernail face scratching and pierced earring pulling.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Sloppy Firsts is very clear on the point that even kids from good families can get mixed up with drugs. Even smart kids. This scares a lot of people I think who would rather lay drug troubles at the feet of the poor,the uneducated or the bad parents. Drugs mentioned include: heroin, crack, marijuana, acid, E, shrooms and Special K (which even I’ve never heard of). Hope’s brother did drugs (see above). There’s is under and of age drinking of beer, wine and hard alcohol. A character needs clean urine from someone else because they would fail a drug test. Jess’s mom takes Valium to help her cope with grief.
Frightening or Intense Things – Brief mention of how teens sometimes do feel suicidal, not due to depression but due to living through being a teen. Jess fantasizes about getting injured so she doesn’t have to run anymore and then sort of deliberately lets herself get hurt. Jess worries about her own mental health and sort of jokingly says she’s schizophrenic, which is certainly no joking matter.