Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company (13th Oct 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.
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Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals! If you're tuning in to read this review, I implore you to go away and spend time with your family and friends .. (I was paid to say that by Santa, alright?) Anyway, hi again after such a long time! Work, sleep, life happens. But here's a review. Read. Eat. BE MERRY. Okay I'll stop now.
I was slightly apprehensive about reading this book at first, with so many reviews citing how much they loved this P&P retelling - and me? I’ve not read any Jane Austen books, like, ever. I’ve not read any classics (also, ever). So when this foretelling of P&P meets Friday Night Lights (football essentially) I was scared I wouldn’t get any of the references.
Having said that, lets fast forward few days to when I finished the book and sat back rather satisfied that I wasn’t in over my head with a book with inside jokes I wouldn’t get. In that sense, if you’re someone who is like me and hasn’t read Pride and Prejudice, fear not, you can still get on board with this book.
First & Then was a fluffy read for me, nothing too serious, a light storytelling to pass the hours but I think the end verdict for me was that this book seemed to have a lot going on under the radar with no attempt to explain it. This will make more sense once I get into the review.
I did enjoy reading the slow buildup between our main characters, Devon and Ezra (a name I will always love and unconsciously associate with Ezra from Pretty Little Liars, don’t judge). A slow buildup is always a winner as opposed to instalove.
I have a lot of questions though and a lot of things from the book I would like explained further. Lets begin with Foster’s Mum. The book starts with being all elusive at first, trying to get us to guess at what horrendous thing happened with his family which meant that he had to come stay with Devon. Yet slowly as pieces of this are revealed, it was just left there, like here’s the reason, do with it what you will. That didn’t sit well with me to be honest, it still felt too vague and didn’t put the whole matter to rest. Additionally, I felt like the buildup for us to find out what happened in order for Foster to land in his current circumstance was unnecessary and lent nothing towards the plot of the book. I’d still view everything the same way, regardless of when we found out, whether beginning, middle or end.
Another one that begged me to ask what’s going on, is the storyline with Marabelle, aka the spaced out pregnant girl. At first when she was introduced I thought she was going to have a true purpose in the book, to provide certain meaning and enlighten us readers with a message about something, anything really. But as the story went on, her character never really progressed further than the occasional appearance and interactions with Foster here and there. I was greatly intrigued by her character and wanted to know the backstory to what happened to her and you would be too okay, she’s probably what, 15/16 years old and pregnant? Alas, we didn’t get any information on her and she was just background noise throughout the book. Again, the story wouldn’t have been any different if her character didn’t exist in the way she did, so what really was her point?
The writing was a little choppy to me, with it breaking off in places and making it feel really jumbled but having said that, I got through the book with ease. There were parts of the story which were super cheesy and made me roll my eyes right into the back of my tiny little head, but other parts were pretty nice. This book just felt jumbled to me overall and my feelings went the same way. I like Devon and Ezra, their interactions, the slow way in which their friendship developed, the way Devon developed herself as a character, mainly seen through the way she comes to view Foster and the role of him in her life. It was heartwarming to see her come to love and accept him in ways she didn’t think she could. Her parents were sweethearts in the way they treated Foster. I loved that.
The secondary characters in the story were just that - secondary, they just blended into the background for me, especially Cas, who I really didn’t like. Smarmy, is the word that seems to come to mind for some reason. Also, really, was there any need to refer to the other girls in her P.E class as prostitots? Similar to slut shaming, these girls are being called miniature versions of prostitutes simply because they dress up and wear makeup and act a little like breathless teenage girls. Not cool man, not cool. Doesn’t warrant this kind of name calling, even in a book, for no apparent reason.
I know it just seems like I’m overly annoyed with this book, but that’s not true. There were parts that I did enjoy, mentioned above, and Ezra’s awkward turtle-ing around was kinda adorable. But to be completely honest, there were a few things amiss throughout the whole book which led me to feel like this by the time I finished. The good points that did make me smile, didn’t do enough to save the book overall; a stronger plot, stronger writing and development would have done this book wonders I feel. I finished the book and it just passed me by in my minds eye, it didn’t leave any lasting feeling or emotion to remember it further, and really is that what you want when you close a book? You want angst, anguish, tears of happiness or tears of sadness (if you’re like me and love a drastic, dramatic cliffhanger). Alas, First & Then, has just left me feeling like .. “and then there was nothing…” PS. Love the cover.