Author Megan McCafferty introduces readers to Jessica Darling in Sloppy Firsts, a novel which recounts the tumultuous journey that is high school.

Sixteen-year-old sophomore Jessica Darling suffers a tremendous blow when her best friend, Hope, moves far away from their hometown of Pineville, New Jersey following the accidental drug overdose of her brother.

Now Jessica is stuck dealing with the irritating shopaholic girls at school by herself. And to make matters worse, Jessica harbors a huge crush on Paul Parlipiano and now that Hope is gone, she has no one to talk about her feelings. Jessica is doubly disappointed when Paul not only has no interest in her but also announces that he is gay. Jessica makes two new friends, neither of whom hold a candle to Hope. Hy is a girl from the city who upends the social scene by working her way into the popular group (which Jessica refers as "the Clueless Crew") and Marcus Flutie, the school's burnout druggie who was, to some extent, responsible for Hope's brother's death. Jessica seems almost relieved when she is sidelined from track season by an ankle injury. To occupy her time, Jessica starts writing for the school newspaper and "accidentally" becomes the editor.

Life at home is no better than life at school. Jessica's mother is obsessed with her older sister's wedding and her father cannot stop thinking and talking about Jessica's track meets. Jessica's father refers to her as "Not So," implying that she is "Not So Darling." All Jessica wants is for Hope to come back and at least be there to commiserate about everything.

Jessica's quick wit, sarcastic sense of humor, and determination not to live up to her last name provides a poignant look at life for today's teens. Sloppy Firsts was named a YALSA Best Book for Young Adults and one of the New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age. McCafferty continues the journey of Jessica Darling in Second Helpings, Charmed Thirds, Fourth Comings, and Perfect Fifths. The novel's sequels will see Jessica through her senior year of high school, college at Columbia University, life in New York City, and a marriage proposal. McCafferty also contributed to Sixteen, an anthology of short stories.