Friday, December 1, 2017

First & Then - Emma Mills

Summary:  Devon Tennyson wouldn't change a thing.  She's happy silently crushing on best friend Cas and blissfully ignoring the future after high school.  But the universe has other plans.  It delivers Devon's cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive jock Ezra right where she doesn't want them -- first into her gym class and then into every other aspect of her life.  With wit, heart, and humor to spare, First & Then is a contemporary novel about falling in love -- with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.  (Summary from book flap - Image from

My Review:  Some books stick to you like glue and refuse to be forgotten, while others just flow over you and melt away.  I read through First & Then fairly quickly, but when I sat down to put my thoughts on paper for a review...I blanked for a while.  It's not that I couldn't remember what happened, but rather that I didn't find much that was particularly remarkable.  That having been said, here is what I did like...

First, I love the cover.  Were I too judge a book exclusively by its cover, this one would receive fairly high marks.  I even love the cover under the cover; if you take the dust jacket off the hardback version, it is covered in little silver versions of the raindrops that dot the jacket!  .  It's just so pretty and I love the extra detail put into something that not everyone sees.

Second, I think that many YA readers will identify with at least one of the issues that arise in this book.  Mills touches on the pain of unrequited love or abandonment, confusion about the future, agonizing over tests and college applications, wondering who to trust, dealing with life's surprises and navigating the murky waters of puberty and popularity.  There's a little something for everyone, as long as you are content to skim the surface of these issues and aren't looking to delve too deeply.

Finally, I appreciated that while this story had a romantic thread, it didn't go too far in that department.  The main character is a huge Austen fan and I felt that the book mostly stayed true to that type of romance, with a little more kissing.  That having been said, there was a strange dichotomy between the delicate intimacies of the book and the sheer level of profanity.  If I were to rate this book solely on the romantic aspects, I'd put it at PG.  For language, it would be R.  The juxtaposition felt odd.

Ultimately, despite the better qualities I've listed, First & Then didn't much move me one way or another.  Though I admit that others have liked it and a YA reader might identify more with the story,   I closed it without looking back.  It was an mildly enjoyable, utterly forgettable read.

My Rating: 3 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  R levels of swearing.  Some teenage drinking, usually portrayed in a negative light.  Nothing beyond kissing, though there is one secondary character who is already pregnant at the beginning of the story.

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