The book opens with Jessica's best friend Hope having moved away and the book is presented in journal and letter form as Jess struggles with feeling newly alone. The journal is for those things she can't even tell Hope and the letters to Hope reinforce and illuminate some of the social and personal situations at school. Hope was really her only real friend and she is now marooned with a clique of girls with whom she's grown up but whom she can't really stand. She is frustrated by her friend Scottie's ongoing crush on her and she is mildly tormented by the school's slacker druggie suddenly latching onto her and calling her out for her superficial behaviour. Jess is a straight A student and a very gifted runner but she is moody and angry, lashing out at her parents and erecting a prickly wall that few people are willing to try and break through. When a new girl moves to school, she and Jess start to hit it off but everything is not as it seems.
The first in a series, McCafferty has managed to capture the misperceptions, uncertainties, and insecurities of high school in this book. She has created a smart, likable, bull-headed, and sometimes completely self-absorbed and casually mean narrator in Jess Darling. The wonder of it is that we do still really, really like her despite all her angst, her bouts of hypocritical behaviour, and her occasional obstreperousness. Even though I wouldn't go back to high school myself on a bet, I am looking forward to joining Jess on her further adventures in later books. More than just light good fun, this is a charming coming of age novel that manages to be both true to life and serve as a reminder that high school is rough for everybody, a reinforcement I'll need a mere year from now in dealing with my crew.