Tuesday, October 13, 2015

First & Then by Emma Mills

First & Then
by Emma Mills

Read: September 26 - 28, 2015
Published: October 13, 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Source: ARC from Macmillan
Category: YA, contemporary, Jane Austen inspired 

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.

I have mixed feelings about First & Then. Actually, I enjoyed this book a lot until about 70% when it all started to fall apart for me. In fact, I'd already started mentally writing a review where I'd talk about how the story did a good job at taking the flavor of Jane Austen but never went straight into a retelling by trying to capture all the elements of a particular book. I find retellings that don't try to mirror everything about the original to feel the most authentic to me. Especially with a story as known as Pride & Prejudice. I do think the book did this well overall. But it still faltered in the end. I'm not sure exactly what went wrong for me here, but as usual it involved the Big Break between the characters in the last quarter when the drama, miscommunication and angst kicks up. 

The part of First & Then that stressed me out lasted from about 70% - 90%. It slowly eroded my feelings about this story and just left me annoyed. Despite the fact that I wasn't looking for a straight retelling, I think Devon ended up being too little like Elizabeth - in that I never fell in love with her as a character. Although possibly others will relate, her lack of drive was tough for me to understand. Ezra was too much like Mr. Darcy. Or rather he was a little too much of the awkward stilted part of Mr. Darcy that doesn't work unless balanced with enough of the selfless swoony parts. Usually the romances you have to work for are the kind I love, but it just started to bother me here. There are some nice moments at the very end, but I really wanted a few (at least one) more non stilted conversation between Ezra and Devon.  

Perhaps this shouldn't have ruined the experience for me, but it was a HUGE issue in my feelings about the book:

A few more notes:
1) It took me some time to get into the flow of this story. I struggled a bit with the writing at first. It felt choppy, and some of the sentences seemed awkward. But eventually I was able to get through that and mostly forgot about it. 

2) I really liked Foster, and especially Devon's relationship with him. The whole storyline was a highlight of this book for me. 

3) I thought Emir was a very random side character. There was a moving moment with him near the end, but it sort of interrupted a scene with Ezra. Emir appears so rarely, it seemed strangely included. 

4) This is one of those "it's not really a love triangle" stories. Devon is best friends with Cas and thinks she's in love with him though he doesn't think of her more than friends. But through the book she slowly notices Ezra, and realizes Cas isn't right for her. This set up is usually one I can handle - It worked for me in The Start of Me and You, but it started to bug me here. I wasn't expecting her feelings for Cas to last so long in this one. 

As I said above, I feel really mixed about First & Then. Until about 70% this was a solid four stars, but many of my good feelings eroded over that 20% of drama near the end. And I wanted more from Devon + Ezra. Although it all started off good, I ended my reading feeling a bit let down, like I could imagine it being really good, but it never got there. 

Love Triangle Factor: Mild (most will say none)
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone


  1. I'm sorry that this book fell short for you towards the end Lauren, I've never heard of this book before, but after reading your review it does sound like it has a lot of potential. Thank you for your honest review and for putting it on my radar! :)

  2. I agree, this one is not really a love triangle but at the same time there's something going on there, it didn't bother me though, I guess because Devon was not moping around because of Cas and also because they never get involved.
    I really liked this one, Foster is adorable.

  3. Ooh, this is SUCH a good review! I've seen this book around a ton and most of the reviews I've seen have been positive, but nothing has compelled me to either pick this up or avoid it until this. I'd have a problem with so many of the points you brought up, Lauren, and I completely agree that a lot of these "tropes" worked for me in THE START OF ME AND YOU but they could so easily just not work and I can see that happening with this. Thanks for this, dear, because this is insanely helpful for me. Sorry it didn't work out for you but here's hoping your next read is a lot better! *fingers crossed*

  4. I've got this one on my Kindle because I just have to read a book that's Pride & Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights…I mean, how can I resist? But I'm sure I'll be annoyed by the typical break up at the 70% mark. Why is that such a thing? So annoying. I didn't read what you had marked as hidden so after I read it, I'll probably come back and take a look. Sorry to sort of fell apart for you! ~Pam

  5. Gorgeous review Lauren. <3 I'm glad you liked this one. But yeah. I won't read it, lol. And then the spoilery part you mention. UGH. That would bother me like crazy too :( Just so not okay, lol. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this one. <3

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