Publisher: Henry Holt
Release Date: 8th October 2015
Edition: US hardback, purchased
Devon Tennyson wouldn’t change a thing. She's happy silently crushing on her 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 humour to spare, First & Then is a contemporary novel about falling in love – with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.
I was so looking forward to First & Then. I’m a huge fan of Emma’s videos and YouTube channel, Elmify, and I’m a sucker for a good contemporary, but I was rather disappointed.
Devon is pretty ordinary. She has a mom and a dad; a crush on her best friend; her grades are fine and nothing particularly extraordinary has ever happened her. She has no special skills or interests and she doesn’t know what she wants to study at college, or if she even wants to go. After her cousin, Foster, comes to stay with her after his mum is no longer able to look after him, everything changes.
I didn’t really feel anything for Devon at all and I actually struggled to continue reading for the first third of the novel; I didn’t connect to her in any way and I wasn’t really that interested in her. The same went for the love interest Ezra. I wasn’t shipping them and I didn’t feel anything between them at all. It was all a bit meh. Foster is by far the most interesting character in First & Then and I actually would have preferred to hear his story than Devon’s. There’s an intense family history with grief, trauma and abandonment issues with Foster and I really liked how they enabled him to connect with Ezra. That friendship is a lot more compelling than all of the others, with the exception of Devon and Foster.
There’s a lot of focus on American football as well as on Devon and Foster’s burgeoning sibling relationship. I really don’t care for football and there were a lot of scenes set at football games and practice and I just skimmed those scenes as it really doesn’t interest me at all. I also found the character of Marabelle (stupid name as well) really discomfiting. She's 15 and pregnant, but the issue with her character is how absent she is, how embroiled in her own world and she felt like the type of person that would be seen as a vulnerable young person and I didn’t like it at all. Those issues weren’t talked about at all, she was just there, using ‘Baby’ as a mouthpiece for any opinions, likes or dislikes she had. As I said, uncomfortable. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on Marabelle if you’ve read First & Then.
I think that Emma Mills has feel potential, especially with the range of topics she worked into the lives of her characters, and I can only hope that she gets better and better over time.