Written by Hannah
All right, let’s get the big spoiler out of the way first.
Marcus and Jessica don’t end up together.
And you know what? I’m glad.
That’s right. I’m glad Jessica and Marcus finally broke up. One of the best things about Fourth Comings is how it illustrates that two people in love may, in the end, still not be right for each other. The idea that love is everything, that it’s all you need, is a powerful one, and kudos to Megan McCafferty for showing that it’s not true.
One of the weaknesses of the Jessica Darling series was Marcus. The perfect bad boy in the first two books — reformed but still with an edge, unknowable in that dreamy high-school boy way — he captured my heart along with Jessica’s.
But, like Jessica in Charmed Thirds, I grew frustrated with Marcus, who retreated into silence via a special college out West, and was, at best, a minor presence in the book. But still, he’d been such a memorable character that I, like Jessica, couldn’t let him go.
And in Fourth Comings, guess what? Marcus is still the same. He’s gorgeous and unknowable, the high school reformed bad boy unchanged. McCafferty limits him to a brief appearance, and spends the majority of the text with Jessica as she agonizes over Marcus and a sudden marriage proposal. Does Marcus mean it? Does she love him? Does he love her?
The answer to all of these questions is this: It doesn’t matter.
Marcus is no longer a real character. McCafferty chose to keep him in limbo, to not let him grow up. Instead he’s the perennial searcher, a guy who will forever be searching for something to explain himself and the world. He has no depth because McCafferty can’t give him any. In creating such a memorable character, she wrote herself into a corner. Guys like Marcus grow up and turn into everyone else — but that doesn’t sell books.
McCafferty is stuck with a hero in a perpetual state of arrested development, a boy who will always be searching, and while I wish she had let Marcus grow up, I respect that it wouldn’t have made for much of a read. Marcus looking for an apartment? Marcus getting a job? Marcus appearing in a scene for longer than a few pages? The mystery would be gone.
And so he and Jessica must end, and they do. Jessica is not so much in love with Marcus, but with their past (as her extensive memories of their past — and not him as he is now — illustrate) and their parting is inevitable.
But there’s a problem with Fourth Comings, a problem so deep that it destroys the entire series. And here it is:
Fourth Comings tells us that once upon a time, Hope (Jessica’s best friend) and Marcus were friends. Once upon a time when they were young, they liked each other. Marcus spent lots of time with Hope. And liked her. In fact, McCafferty posits, through Jessica, that perhaps Marcus always wanted Hope and that, if Heath hadn’t died and Hope hadn’t left, he would have wooed her, not Jessica.
And did Hope ever mention her past friendship with Marcus to Jessica?
I can believe that Marcus wouldn’t — after all, he pushed Jessica away as his father battled cancer. But Hope?
Leaving aside the issue of Jessica’s Pineville friends keeping silent about Hope and Marcus’ past — a notion that’s utterly ludicrous when one considers how happy they are to share any and all bits of gossip with Jessica, not matter how unpleasant (or, perhaps, when it’s especially unpleasant) — what does this say about the Hope and Jessica friendship?
Well, now I guess that when Jessica confessed everything about Marcus at the end of Sloppy Firsts — a moment when she bared her soul to Hope — Hope never said anything about her history with Marcus.
And when Hope works to get Jessica and Marcus together in Second Helpings — I guess she didn’t mention it then either.
And during the road trip that starts at the end of Charmed Thirds, a road trip where Hope knows Jessica is conflicted about Marcus? Apparently she didn’t mention it then, either.
In other words, I’m expected to believe that Jessica’s best friend never once thought about mentioning her past friendship with Marcus.
And you know what? I don’t believe it.
The entire Hope and Marcus history, as laid out in Fourth Comings, feels like it was made up so us poor, dumb readers will understand that Marcus and Jessica can’t and won’t ever work out. After all, look at what she never knew! And about Marcus and her best friend!
Now, admittedly, we all know people are capable of not telling the truth, but for McCafferty to suggest that Hope, who she so carefully painted as a true friend to Jessica, would withhold something like this means only one thing:
McCafferty has now written a series that, in the end, deliberately calls into question everything that’s come before.
She wrote a series where long-time readers are left with the notion that everything they’ve read has been, at best, a partial truth. And while that’s what life may be — for how can we truly know what truth is — here’s the thing:
Readers invested in the series, and Megan McCafferty should have trusted her readers. She should have known we would see that Jessica and Marcus were high school, not forever. She shouldn’t have restored to the old plot device of a “secret past” to make sure we got her point.
Most importantly, Megan McCafferty shouldn’t have written yet another story that paints female friendship as something that must always be questioned. She shouldn’t have taken the cornerstone of the series — the Hope was the one constant in Jessica’s life, the one person she could trust — and shattered it.
Megan McCafferty shouldn’t have taken the easy way out with this book and with this series, but she did.
And you know what? We deserve better.
I hear rumors that McCafferty is writing a fifth book. I won’t be buying it.