Author Megan McCafferty returns with Second Helpings, the sophomore installment of her Jessica Darling series. Readers join Jessica amid her senior year in 2001. Her best friend, Hope, will not be returning to Pineville, New Jersey, from Texas for a visit this year and as a result, Jessica is even more depressed about her best friend's absence than usual. Bethany, Jessica's older sister, is pregnant following her wedding for which she prepared in Sloppy Firsts. And Jessica cannot escape the clutches of her supposed friends to whom she refers as "the Clueless Crew."
Jessica spent the summer in a competitive academic enrichment camp where she became smitten with the instructor, professor Samuel MacDougall. Not only does he challenge Jessica to think beyond that which is familiar to her, like life in suburbia, but he also inspires her with his already-published novels. Life beyond Pineville is just what Jessica is looking towards; having spent time with her one-time crush, Paul Parlipiano (who happens to be gay), Jessica falls in love with Columbia University and decides that she must gain admission to the prestigious Ivy League school. Jessica is concerned, however, that after the attack on the World Trade Center her parents will not let her anywhere near New York City.
In an effort to get over Marcus Flutie, the school druggie who asked her out simply as part of an experiment, Jessica begins to date Len Levy. Their relationship seems doomed from the start as they are in competition for the class's valedictorian spot. But Jessica does not need to tell her meddlesome grandmother, Gladdie, any of the details about her love life; she is already in the know. In fact, everyone at Gladdie's nursing home knows all there is to know about Jessica and her boyfriend.
Experiencing the ups and downs of senior year including such time-honored events as the prom and graduation through Jessica's eyes is a treat for readers. Jessica's wit, wisdom and sarcasm have endeared her to readers who will enjoy the opportunity to get reacquainted with this heroine.
McCafferty has written three additional books about Jessica Darling—Charmed Thirds, Fourth Comings, and Perfect Fifths.