Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Book Review: First & Then by Emma Mills
Author links: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Age group: YA
Purchase links: Amazon - Book Depository
Description (from Goodreads);
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.
Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights !!!!!!
This definitely is what my dreams are made of. I have been a huge Austen fan for years (Pride and Prejudice being my favorite) and even since I first watched Friday Night Lights, I have counted it as one of my favorite shows of all time (I am a RIGGINS girl through and through). When I first heard about Emma Mills's First & Then, I instantly got excited. But I was also kind of scared that this wonderful premise of Austen and FNL would not work for me. But work it did, and I am so incredibly happy (and relieved) about that!
Devon Tennyson is a senior in high school. Unlike many of her classmates, she has no idea what she wants to do next. She is smart and funny, but feels like she is not particularly good at anything. She feels mediocre and does not believe in her changes. Day to day, she is surrounded by people who seem to have a clear idea of their future. Some of those people are football players, like her best friend Cas. And then there's Ezra, the star of the football team who is definitely going places, despite the fact that everyone seems him as bit of an asshole.
In addition to all of that, there's Foster, Devon's younger cousin who suddenly moves in with Devon's family. For 17 years, Devon has been the only child. Now, there's another teenager living in her house. Foster seems socially a bit challenged and bit of an outsider, but when he shows aptitude for football at a P.E. class Devon is also forced to take in order to graduate, he gets sucked into the world of football. And since Devon is pretty much his ride to everywhere, so does Devon. Suddenly, Devon notices that she is seeing Ezra more and more and starts to realize that the guy might not be quite so bad as everyone seems to think.
Though there are two potential love interests in Devon's life - Cas and Ezra - there really isn't a love triangle present in First & Then, which I REALLY liked. And though there is romance here, in the end the novel is more about Devon and her growth and how she comes to realize that she needs to open herself up for new opportunities in order to find her way in life. Foster and spending time with him allow Devon to spend more time with the football team, and though Devon never really counts herself as a football fan, she definitely gets more into the game. Foster also brings Devon and Ezra closer and allows Devon to see the guy everyone is talking about as a normal guy, not just as a football star.
One of my favorite parts of the novel is a scene in which Devon goes to visit a college she is thinking might be good fit for her. As someone who is about to go to a new school soon (and who's super panicked about it), this scene gave me a sort of calm. Maybe I'll fit in after all. Maybe everything will be just fine. This scene is not even that important in connection to the narrative of the novel, but for me as a reader, it was very meaningful.
In many ways, First & Then follows the story line of Pride and Prejudice. There's a girl who definitely is prejudiced about a lot of things, a guy who's not necessarily proud, but just seen as conceited and full of himself. When they are forced to spend time together, they realize that first impressions are not always correct. I would not really go as far as to say that Devon is a modern day Elizabeth Bennet or that Ezra is exactly like Darcy, but there definitely are some similarities there.
As a huge FNL fan, I of course tried to match these characters with FNL characters. Ezra exactly isn't Tim Riggins material (few are, because how could someone replicate the perfection of Riggins), but rather seems like a mix of all the main guys in FNL - there's a bit of Saracen there, a bit of Riggins and a bit of Jason Street. Since I love all of those guys, I definitely did not object to Ezra in any sort of way. I see Devon as a mix of Julie and Tara - she's smart and funny and good at talking to people, but there's also a level of shyness that Julie possesses. Foster's surprising aptitude with football can be connected to both Saracen and Landry and there's a guy in here called Jordan who definitely is a mix of Riggins and Smash.
Emma Mills writes well and the pacing of the story worked very well for me. All and all, I really enjoyed First & Then. Not only is it a sort of retelling of Pride and Prejudice with a FNL-like football setting, it also manages to be a very good coming-of-age story with family drama, romance and friendships.