I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday break so far! Mine has been very relaxing and just what I needed. Over the break, I read Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, which is what I’m going to be talking about today! Firsts is, you guessed it, focused on a teenage girl’s “first times”, and is quite narrowly focused on sexual activity in a high school setting. I don’t usually enjoy reading YA novels with a huge focus on that type of thing, but Firsts had a lot of friendship and realistic issues high school teens run into in real life, making it difficult to put down.
First and fore most though, Firsts has a pretty unrealistic chunk that is really significant to the plot; I had to suspend my disbelief for the majority of the novel: our main character Mercedes, or “Mercy”, helps virgin boys get their “first time” right with their girlfriends by being an interactive practice tool. In other words, she has sex with them and gives them tips about what they can do better when the boys do it with their girlfriends for the “first time” (I’m quoting “first time” because for the boys, it obviously won’t be after doing it with Mercy). The story kicks off from there, and I had to ignore how improbable this is. Mercedes does all of this free of charge, but how is this justifiable for the boyfriends? How does Mercedes not have any doubts that the boys are in it truly for the lessons, not to just get in her pants? Granted, Mercedes is blinded by what happened to her in the past, but still. Anyone from a mile away can see that this non-profit business can only end badly.
Other than that, I found Firsts to be pretty enjoyable. I love the conflict between Mercy and her mentally absent mother. I think Flynn did a wonderful job executing the family dynamic there. There are also quite a few secondary characters, and while some of them could have been a little more fleshed out, I like what Flynn has done with them. Each character slowly builds into something that is important in Mercy’s life.
It’s interesting because there were many potential love interests in Firsts; I didn’t even know who was 100% the love interest until past 50% of the story, which I like. Flynn focuses on the many problems that Mercy faces, and doesn’t focus on the love interest until the end of the story. And now that I think about it, it was developing sneakily throughout the entire story, but I just didn’t really notice it. By the end, I was completely on board with the romance and felt it was endearing and heartwarming.
Firsts is raw and shocking at times – so much so, in fact, that I recommend this one maybe to older YA audiences. At times, it felt more like a New Adult, and it easily could have been, except for the fact that Mercy is a senior in high school, and the bullying and slut-shaming is real at her school. While I had my reservations throughout the story, and especially with the initial factor that kicks off the plot, I really enjoyed reading Firsts. I honestly couldn’t put it down because I had to know what would happen to Mercy and her “business”. Some parts of the story are improbable, but other parts are completely realistic in a young adult setting.
Flynn doesn’t hold back on the grittier side of high school, and the struggles that come along with it. I wasn’t expecting to like Mercy just because we have very different values, but Firsts is a perfect example of a book where I don’t like the main character very much, but I understand and sympathize with her. If you’re a realistic fiction or contemporary lover who isn’t afraid of a rawer look of YA, be sure to pick up Firsts.
Will you be picking up Firsts?