Picks and Pans Review: Second Helpings

updated 04/21/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/21/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Megan McCafferty

Having all brains and no bust can be rough. And in Jessica Darling's so-called life, that's just the least of her problems. In McCafferty's new novel, the sequel to Sloppy Firsts, the New Jersey high schooler faces more than the usual teen tribulations: the ghost of her dead brother, annoying friends and a knack for falling for guys who turn out to be either gay or snarky. To quote Jessica, "Ack."

In the first book Jessica was a thinker. However, when Second Helpings begins, during summer break, she seems to have dried out in the sun. Instead of being the Class Brainiac, she has become shallow. Fortunately she wises up halfway through the novel. Her two-dimensional figure begins to fill out, and as graduation nears, our Darling little girl grows up. So no more "ack"ing. (Three Rivers, $10.95)

BOTTOM LINE: Junk food at first, nutritious later

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