Publishing Info: October 13, 2015 by Macmillan
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: August 21, 2015
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.
Admittedly I haven’t read any Jane Austen but when “Friday Night Lights” is thrown into a book description, you better believe my ears have perked and my interest is caught! I’m actually not a huge football fan in general but the football games throughout from freshman to senior year were a big part of my high school experience so I really hold some nostalgic feelings for them! Naturally, by the time I got around to reading FIRST & THEN, I was very excited!
The first thing that stuck out to me about the book was the characters. Devon is the protagonist of the book and I both related to her and had a hard time connecting to her all at once. She’s a senior and keeps getting pushed to figure out what colleges to apply to and what she wants to do with the rest of her life and really has no clue. I really enjoyed seeing that theme because that’s exactly how I felt in high school. I knew I was going to a community college for two years to save money because I got a scholarship but I hadn’t the slightest idea what sort of career I wanted or how to set up the rest of my life at eighteen so I really connected with Devon on that level quite a bit! I thought Emma Mills did a great job at setting up that range of emotions for Devon and how hard it was to have that pressure from people. Where I didn’t connect was that Devon didn’t really care — I was an avid student and I enjoyed school, working hard to get good grades. Devon wasn’t a bad student but she has more of a general apathy towards school so while I was able to latch onto the idea of the book, it was actually sort of hard for me to connect with Devon on that level. I think I kept trying to make my connection with her more personal but that wasn’t quite working out so it took me a while to warm to her.
It was also a toss-up for me on the overall themes of the book. It wasn’t quite Jane Austen meets Friday Night Lights in regard to the plot… and yet it was. Usually when you hear mash-ups, I feel like they’re both plot-related but Jane Austen is actually a big part of Devon’s life and is referenced directly many times throughout the books so it’s not just a Jane Austen-feel. For me not having read any Austen, it actually sort of made me disconnect instead of pulling me in. I’m probably in the minority in that respect (not having read any of her books) so the references were both lost on me and made me feel more disconnected from Devon. “Fright Night Lights” really just means “high school football” but I really did get that feel from FIRST & THEN. I liked how prevalent football was throughout the book but it also didn’t take over the entire plot.
I had a bit of a hard time connecting in the beginning, possibly just because I wasn’t really similar to the characters and their situations weren’t very similar to my own. I think with contemporary novels, I tend to try to relate and put myself in a character’s shoes and I didn’t get a good “fit” until halfway through the book. The ending, however, I felt very connected to and there were so many instances that really mirrored my own experiences. It was a bit late to make up for the beginning but I was really glad that I finally started to pick up on all those lingering feelings and really start to feel comfortable with the characters as well.
The romantic plot of the book, I thought, was great. I won’t spoil anything but it was a great theme of “you can’t always get what you want” but Devon finds a place in her own life — with home, friends, and love life — and she does a lot of growing up seeing how much better things turned out after she didn’t get what she wanted. I did a lot of learning in regards to that message throughout high school and college so I really enjoyed watching Devon’s journey to discover those things for herself!
For a while, I was worried that I wasn’t going to connect with FIRST & THEN but I ended up being overwhelmed by all of the emotions towards the end of the book so it really balanced out to a very solid read. I think so many readers will enjoy this and be able to see pieces of themselves in the characters. I can’t wait to read more reactions and reviews!
“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!
Devon // Character Obsessions: Jane Austen, her crush, surviving high school.
Devon was kind of a hard character to get a read on at first! It wasn’t that she hated school but she just didn’t really care for it and had no idea what she wanted to do for college or if she wanted to go at all, so I guess I felt a little lost with her for a while when she was feeling lost. I really started to get along with her better towards the end of the book but I was having a really hard time getting a read on her in the beginning!
Foster // Character Obsessions: Marching to the beat of his own drum, routines, football.
You know what, I think all of the characters were just hard to get a read on. I really ended up enjoying Foster’s character but I couldn’t quite tell what was up with him. It was clear that he was very different from Devon but was it different in a way that implies lack of all social awareness? Was it that he didn’t care? Was it a little of both? Was it because of something that happened to him? I guess the answer is maybe all of the above but it was interesting to figure out Foster while getting to know him instead of being directed told why he is the way he is. I guess it was a tad confusing but also very natural the way it unfolded.
Kept Me Hooked On: Football. I don’t watch professional football but this reminded me of my high school days a lot. I loved the football aspect!
Left Me Wanting More: Character accessibility. I kind of felt like everyone was a little closed off and it took me a long time to warm to quite a few of the characters… but the good news is that I did connect!
This was a really fun book! Like I said, I had a bit of a hard time in the beginning trying to get a feel for the book and the characters but I absolutely loved the end! Balanced out to be a solid read for me and I know others loved it too!
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(Click the cover to see my review!)
I’ve got an ARC of FIRST & THEN to give away along with my post! Just enter the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win! US residents only, please. Must be 13 years of age or older to enter. Giveaway closes on 10/7.