First & Then by Emma Mills

23310751This book was so cute!  And despite our protagonist Devon’s love for all things Jane Austen, I was two-thirds through the book before I realized I was reading a Pride and Prejudice retelling.  Maybe I am super dumb, but I like to think that it was also pretty subtle.

You’ve got the proud Ezra with barely any facial expressions but ‘apathetic,’ and you’ve got the prejudiced Devon, who cannot believe what a jerk he is.  But as they are thrown in each other’s paths more often, they learn more about each other and realize they were wrong about their judgments.  Okay, that doesn’t sound subtle.  What Mills does so well is incorporate so much more into her story.  There’s Foster, Devon’s cousin whose addict mom sends him to stay with her, giving her the little brother she never wanted.  There’s Cas and Lindsay, and Devon’s growing awareness that just because the boy she’s crushing on likes The Perfect Girl doesn’t mean Devon has to hate her.  There’s Devon working through her fear of the future by getting excited about college at Reeding.  

See?  So much more!  And even when the plot lines up with Pride and Prejudice, Mills takes it a little deeper (yikes, is that a thing I’m allowed to say?).  I loved the character of Marabelle, First & Then‘s version of Georgiana.  She’s a teen mom and a little out-of-the-box mentally.  What I loved is that we never get to hear how she became pregnant.  There are rumors circulating the high school, but we never know because she doesn’t want us to know.  I also really liked Marabelle’s relationship with Foster, both in how they mirror each other so well, and in how they accept each other’s need for space.

There’s so much understated tragedy in this book (but it never feels like a sad book).  Abandoned kids, drunk dads, dead brothers, babies having babies.  Mills isn’t afraid to step into some of the worst things life can throw at a teenager.  While they certainly impact the characters, there is an underlying sense of optimism, a sense that with good friends and time to heal, a person can get through anything.

I loved this book.  It manages to be deep yet light-hearted and a tribute to a classic yet confident in its own story.  Everyone should read it!

Book Jacket

Devon Tennyson wouldn’t change a thing.  She’s happy 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 unrepentent social outlier with a surprising talent, and the obnoxiously 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 humor to spare, First & Then is a contemporary novel about falling in love–with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.

Release Date:  October 2015


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