Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn Release Date: January 5, 2016 Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin YA (please see my Rating before giving to a teenager to read) Stand Alone Book Number of Pages: 320 Hardcover Source: borrowed from Warren Public Library Rating: somewhere between PG-13 and R Read 8/5/16 to 9/5/16
I had to think about this one a lot before deciding my rating. It generally doesn’t take me more than a few days to read a book, so the fact that this one took me a month to read had me questioning if it was as good as I thought at the end. I want to be fair to the book and the author so I had to figure out what outside forces may have made this a slow read for me. My son left for Army basic training, the Olympics were on for 2 weeks, I had a somewhat serious book to get through for book club, I stressed about getting a phone call from said Army son…you see where I’m going with this. Besides the book club book I was reading, I was all for the easy read for the last month. (Yes, I’m one of those people who read multiple books at the same time.) What this all comes down to is this: the slow read was more fault than the book’s.
I saw this book in a little shop while on vacation in July and knew I didn’t have room for a hardcover book in my luggage. I wrote down the name and author and looked it up at my library once I got home. The synopsis really intrigued me and I’m a fan of YA fiction. Let me warn you, I do not think a lot of moms will consider this YA. This is one of those books the parent or guardian should definitely read before allowing their younger teen to read. I would think most would realize that by the synopsis, but I’m reiterating the point just in case. There is a lot of talk about sex as well as actual sex. Not to mention some adult problems the teen characters have to deal with.
Regardless of what I had going on in my life when I started the book, I still believe the beginning of this story is pretty slow. Once we understand what Mercedes is doing and why, there is a lot of getting to know the other characters. Of course, for the story as a whole to work that is necessary. But it does take time. And it takes time for everything to unravel.
Once things start to fall apart, the pace of the story really picked up for me. I was by turns so proud of Mercedes and upset she wouldn’t confide in anyone. I have to say, even though the story picked up here, I was a bit put off by some of the things that happened in the story because I don’t think in this day and age they would have been so glossed over. I have a son who just graduated this year so I know how the schools look at bullying…especially when there is any sort of sexual innuendo involved. That no adult (teacher, counselor, cafeteria lady, anyone!) approached Mercedes and tried to talk to her was not realistic to me. But it’s really the only thing that wasn’t. The way she was treated by other students seemed spot on.
There’s a part in the book where her friend Faye says something along the lines of Mercedes not being the only person that did something wrong and she was tired of the boys walking around like they were victims and blaming her for everything. I loved that because it’s not only true in this book, but true in real life the way society has such double standards.
One thing I wish would have been addressed a bit more was the Luke incident. I wish the author would have made it perfectly clear that Mercedes was raped. I get that we are viewing this through Mercedes’ eyes and she’s not clear on that herself. I just wish another character would have definitively said “you were raped” so any young ladies reading this book would not have any doubts on what is acceptable behavior from a boyfriend and what is not.
I found the concept and story to be interesting. Possibly even a story that many need to read. It is a story about loving yourself and allowing others in so you can be loved. It explores the importance of love…familial, friendly, self, and romantic.
Again, I would not recommend this for my 13 year old niece. But it would be a great book to gift her for her 17th birthday as long as we have an open dialogue at the time. I say that because I think this book can prompt some great discussions with older teens, boys and girls.