Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty
Series: Jessica Darling, #4
Published: Crown, 2007
Format: Hardcover, 310 pages
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Source: Borrowed from library
Contains spoilers for Sloppy Firsts (my review), Second Helpings (my review), Charmed Thirds (my review)
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“You don't have to agree with me, but I think the heart of who we are stays pretty much the same," Hope said, "What changes is how those core traits manifest themselves over time.”
Jessica Darling is now a college graduate with a degree in psychology. She lives in a Brooklyn apartment with her best friend Hope, along with her high school "friend" Manda and Manda's girlfriend Shea. She works on a part-time basis for a psychology magazine, earning money on the side by babysitting her little niece Marin. Not everything is ideal necessarily, but at least she's working on trying to figure everything out.
The one thing she's pretty sure of is that things just aren't right between Marcus and her. The dynamic of their relationship has changed over her college years, as they've spent months upon months apart, hardly speaking for the majority of them. And now Marcus has been admitted to Princeton, a twenty-three year old freshman. Jessica travels down to see Marcus the final weekend in August with the intention of ending things, but a marriage proposal brings her up short. Rather than answering right away, Marcus encourages Jessica to write down her thoughts and think things through over the next week while he's away on an orientation trip.
After the bit of a let-down that I felt in regard to Charmed Thirds, I honestly wasn't sure what to expect going into Fourth Comings. But rest assured this ended up being much, much better. Fourth Comings is essentially a little novel that documents just one week of Jessica's post-college life. A week full of typical trials and tribulations that any recent graduate faces, as well as problems that are by now familiarly associated with Jessica Darling's life, and some that aren't so typical.
The context of Jessica's entries have changed, as, for the first time, she is writing these entries with the intention of them being read, by none other than Marcus. Even consciousness of an audience cannot actually make Jessica censor herself, although the tone slightly changes in this installment. She's a bit more uncertain at times, and is quick to gloss over certain touchy issues (that, or else she dissects those issues in detail, as though to prove why they don't matter to her anymore). Whereas in the first and second ones Hope had an overarching presence in Jessica's life, here it is Marcus. And I really liked that. Over these past four novels I've come to appreciate Marcus as a character and the relationship that he and Jessica have formed. It's not perfect, but I think both have played a major role in the growth and maturation of the other.
Easily one of the best aspects of the Jessica Darling series has been the focus on Jessica's relationships with others: friends, family, lovers. As Jessica has matured, so, too, have they (both actually and in her understanding of them). From sowing the seeds towards an actual friendship with her sister Bethany, to being a proud, supportive aunt of her niece Marin, to not only witnessing the flaws of her parents, but actually emphasizing with their struggles, Fourth Comings gives the readers hope that Jessica is more than just the odd-one-out in her family. That, given time, she will come to form healthy relationships with them all. In addition to family members, a bit of time is spent on Jessica's friendships with Bridget, Percy, Hope, and even Manda. They've realistically shifted, transformed, and adapted, just as she has over the past six or so years. Most satisfying in all of this is Hope's regular presence within this novel.
On the surface, Fourth Comings is a novel about mostly little things (with one or two major things thrown in the mix). So what, then, caused me to enjoy this book so very much? Personally, I think McCafferty really nailed her portrayal of life for recent college graduates. Between Jessica and her friends, the book examines the challenges of post-graduate life. Perhaps it is partially due to the fact that I've witnessed the growth that have led characters to this point, and also due to the fact that I've been (and still am) in their shoes, but I enjoyed McCafferty's take on this turbulent period of time.
I cannot say that I agreed with all of the choices Jessica makes over the course of Fourth Comings, but her growth and characterization remain consistently believable. It is in this book that I can really start to see hints of the relatively well-adjusted adult that Jessica will eventually become. Fourth Comings has McCafferty experiment with even more drastic changes in Jessica's journaling habits, as well as time length, and I ultimately found this worked together very well. It is worth nothing that this novel is very much dependent on previous installments (but, really, how many series installments can claim differently?). When taken as part of a cohesive whole, Fourth Comings comes together very well.
Rating: 4 stars