Fourth Comings is the latest book in McCafferty’s series of Jessica Darling novels (all of which are titled as numbers – Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, and Charmed Thirds). In this installment, Jessica finds herself a college graduate in New York City with no job, very little money, and a boyfriend she doesn’t quite know what to do with. The infamous Marcus Flutie (I only say infamous because the first three books are basically about Jessica’s reactions to Marcus, and this book is no different) seems to have found himself at his Buddhist desert retreat and is now enrolled as a freshman at Princeton University. Jessica goes to see him, intending to break up with him once and for all, but is shocked when Marcus pops the question. The entire book is her contemplation of this decision written in journal form, as all the other books are - but in this case, it is a journal to Marcus himself. Jessica writes her thoughts for Marcus down for one week, and it is that brief week the reader gets a glimpse of through this book.
Fourth Comings features virtually all of the characters from the previous books in one form or another. In fact, this is the first book in which Hope is a flesh-and-blood person rather than someone Jessica writes to and constantly refers to. It is nice to have Hope as an actual character in the books after she has been a shadow for so long. In this way, the book is familiar; it feels as though the reader is simply receiving an update on old high school friends, which is a pleasant feeling.
Jessica is indecisive as ever here, which seems less appealing than it used to be. As she has grown up in the previous books, readers have watched her gain depth as a character and a person. This is the first book where I felt like there was virtually no character development. Jessica seems static, lost in the quagmire of her own doubts and fears. However, the book only covers a week of Jessica’s life, and the time span between the beginning of this book and the end of its prequel is much less than the usual time between books. (I believe there were around two years between the first two books, three years between the second and third book, and only six months between the third and fourth books.) So part of the reason Jessica hasn’t really grown up as much as she has in past books is that there simply isn’t enough time for that to happen.
Jessica’s relationship with Marcus is a bit of a difficulty. These books are about Jessica, first and foremost, but Marcus has always been present. A lot of the previous books have been Jessica reacting to Marcus. The relationship seems to have grown stagnant, perhaps why McCafferty wrote that Jessica was planning to break up with Marcus. On one hand, readers do want to read about Jessica because the books are about her life, and it is her sense of humor and wit that readers appreciate. On the other had, where Jessica is, Marcus has always been. It will be interesting to see how McCafferty chooses to handle this dilemma in the next book.
Overall, Fourth Comings is enjoyable, but by no means is it the best book of the series. Fans of these books will probably like it well enough (although it seems that if a reader has a strong opinion one way or another about Marcus, they either love or hate the book), but general readers should probably steer clear of this one and instead pick up McCafferty’s first Jessica Darling book, Sloppy Firsts. As anything else, it simply does not do it justice to dive in right in the middle – to truly appreciate the series, you have to start from the beginning.