Saturday, January 9, 2016

Review: First & Then by Emma Mills

Firstly, thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for this review copy <3

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Date Read: December 23 - 25
Date Released: January 15 2016 (this edition)
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"Devon Tennyson wouldn't change a thing. She's happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, 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 for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn't want them-first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love - with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself."

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I was initially intrigued by First & Then by its gorgeous cover, and then by the pitch which likened it to Pride and Prejudice. While I couldn’t really draw parallels to Pride and Prejudice the way I could an adaption like Emma/Clueless, I could still see the Austen influences that Mills employed.

Told from Devon’s first person perspective (I’ll explain why I feel the need to mention this later), our main character is in her senior year at high school and just trudging along. She’s got one best friend and she wants to keep it that way. I’d say she’s sheltered because she chooses to be ignorant of everything that goes on around her. Devon lives in this bubble and ideally, she’d like to stay in it until graduation. Alas, she also needs to think of the next step which is college and has to find extracurriculars to add to her applications. From here, Devon’s bubble bursts. Add in the arrival of her seemingly awkward cousin Foster and things start getting interesting.

I loved Devon’s character growth throughout the book. As a lover of Austen, she comments on certain situations and how things would have panned out in the Edwardian era compared to what happens in today’s time. In her little bubble, Devon doesn’t notice the things that go on around her. As she slowly interacts with the various people in her freshman gym class, her world completely opens up. The reader is able to see how Devon unknowingly holds all these prejudices and everybody around her breaks stereotypes.

Foster especially is an amazing character. He’s extremely talented at football but also a bit geeky and at times socially unaware because of the way things have turned out for him in life. He’s gone through a lot and as more of his story unfolds, the more Devon is able to warm up to him. I loved the friendship that Foster formed with Devon and how he brings Ezra into the picture.

Now Ezra is our resident Mr. Darcy. He comes off as aloof, standoffish and everybody has the impression Ezra thinks he’s better than everybody else because he’s basically set for college football. Here again, as Ezra slowly reveals more of himself through his interactions with Foster and Devon, we see how people’s assumptions can lead to misinformation. Ezra is a very complex character, add on the way Devon was set on the way she viewed the world and it was kind of like the to-ing and fro-ing of Lizzie and Mr. Darcy.

The secondary characters made for a wonderful cast to breakdown stereotypes. Devon’s somehow managed to get to senior year and view her high school as the clich├ęd American high school with cliques. And yet her best friend is a jock, her cousin is essentially a ‘jock’ and the other ‘jocks’ are really nice guys who are vying for valedictorian. She sees freshman girls as TBs (I forgot the term used in the book but you know what I mean by teenybopper) who cannot possibly have brains and must be bitchy. Devon is in for a shock of a surprise.

The romance is slowburn and sweet and very Pride and Prejudice in the way it develops. I loved it so much with the tension and repressed feelings. I liked that the romance developed not because Devon was attracted to him from the beginning, but because of the support Ezra provided Foster in times of need. Help that didn’t come with ulterior motives, but purely from the goodness of his heart. Devon be like wow he can’t possibly care about others can he?

Mills’ writing is really funny and snarky as we see through Devon’s voice. This is why I felt the need to mention First & Then is in first person. In a typical Austen, Jane writes in third person and provides authorial comment. Austen comments on the folly’s of her characters, essentially laughing at them and foreshadowing events/complications that needn’t have happened if not for their follies. We don’t get that in First & Then. Instead, Mills uses Devon’s own comments and opinions and juxtaposes these with the dialogues and interactions of those around her. While Devon continues on her own way, at times misunderstanding, the reader gets to ‘laugh’ at Devon and sort of infer what happens next. It’s brilliantly done and I was just shaking my head and hugging Devon in my mind.

Not just a pretty cover, First & Then is a lovely, sweet and adorable contemporary about how change can come at the most unwanted times, but for the best reasons.

3 comments:

  1. Awwwww this sounds really cute but I'm not sure if I can handle another MC who adores Jane Austen. It just annoys me so much (for some reason?? Idek).

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  2. I do love that cover. It reminds me of a Jandy Nelson book. I never had any interest in this book, but everyone seems to enjoy it, and then everyone goes on about character growth, and I am ALL for that!

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  3. I LOVED this book! But in a weird, not soul crushing way like I do with some books (see, Throne of Glass). But instead I found myself smiling and laughing at certain things Devon said or did. She was an unusual heroine, but I loved the way Mills wrote her.

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