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.
Two and a half stars: A book that falters with loose ends, an abrupt ending and a lackluster romance.
Devon Tennyson is entering her senior year, yet she still has no idea what she wants to do with the rest of her life. Does she really want to go to college? To make things even more difficult, her family recently took in her young cousin, Foster, who is starting his freshmen year. Foster is sweet and likable but socially awkward, and Devon wants little to do with him. Worse yet, Devon must endure physical education as a senior. Could things get any more difficult? Luckily, Devon isn't the lone senior in the class, Ezra, the star football player, who is also a senior and a recent transfer is enduring P.E. with her. Devon is surprised when Ezra takes Foster under his wing when he learns that Foster has talent as a kicker. Between school, football, a new little brother and an unrequited romance with her best friend, Cas, Devon has a lot on her plate. Will she survive her senior year?
What I Liked:
- First, I can tell you going into this one that it isn't really a Pride and Prejudice retelling, so if you are not a big Austen fan, I know gasp, but that would be me, you can easily read this and enjoy the simple tale. This is a light contemporary romance with some interesting characters and a realistic story line.
- At the heart of the story is Devon. As a senior, she has not a clue as to what she wants to do with the rest of her life. I liked that she came across as realistic. There were things that I didn't always like about her such as she was a bit judgmental and she avoided talking things out. I did appreciate that she was struggling with those first steps into adulthood. She does a lot of growing and she has much to learn, and in the end, I liked her transformation. I loved the change in her relationship with Foster, she came through for him when he needed her.
- One of the highlights for me, was the adorable Foster. Foster's father died when he was young, and his mother struggled with an addiction problem. Now he is settling in with a new family and starting over, but you know what? He never lets things get him down. He almost always has a positive outlook, and he isn't intimidated. He is sweet, genuinely kind, and socially awkward, but that made him even more endearing. I loved watching him grow and change.
- The romance is a bit difficult. Even though it hints at a love triangle, I can assure you, there is never a love triangle. Instead a relationship develops out of an unlikely friendship, and then it turns into something more. There are some stumbles and some miscommunication, but in the end, it left me smiling.
- I appreciated that this book had a strong focus on family. Devon's parents are very much involved and present throughout the story, and the relationship between Devon and Foster is a big, important part of the book.
And The Not So Much:
- Where did this book go wrong? For me, there were too many loose ends, and underdeveloped characters and plots lines. First, you have the whole story line involving Devon and her future, but then the books ends before Devon truly settles on what she is going to do. I hated that. Second, I didn't like that there were numerous secondary characters that drifted in and out, and they remained underdeveloped and many of their story lines were unfinished. For instance, Devon and Foster are friends with a young, fifteen year old, pregnant girl, and I was expecting something to come of that relationship, but alas, it never developed. I was left wanting to know so much more about her, who was the father? How did she get pregnant when she seemed so clueless? Then there is Samir, a brief mention in the beginning, and then he suddenly shows up at the end to play an important part. Didn't get that. What was the deal with Jordan? Who was he destined to be with? This book needed to tighten up the story lines and flesh out some of the characters.
- For me, the whole Jane Austen thing was a gimmick. In the beginning, Devon professes a love for Jane Austen, and she often compares her life to an Austen novel, but then all the Austen stuff disappears for awhile in the middle section, only to resurface toward the end. To me it felt forced, thrown in and it just didn't work.
- The romance was a big stumble for me as well. First, it sets up to be a love triangle, but thankfully that isn't the case. Yes, Devon does find herself caught, sort of, between two boys, but one has never been romantically interested in her, and the other struggles with expressing himself. This is a romance that struggles with miscommunication and lack of communication, until it works out at the end. There is a nice little scene near that finale, that ended up being the highlight. For me, there was never really any butterfly in the tummy, or sweet moments, it was more stumbles and irritation. I really wanted to like this, but it lacked the light and fluffy that I enjoy in YA contemporary.
- The ending is ridiculously abrupt. It just cuts off and that's it. No mention of what happens down the road. Does Devon go to college? What happens with the romance? What about Foster? Does Ezra finally deal with his emotional past? I was extremely disappointed in the end.
First & Then is billed as a Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights book. Yes, there is plenty of football, but the Jane Austen parts were gimmicky and they didn't work. The book also suffers from lack of development with characters and story lines, an abrupt ending, and a romance that fails to impress. I really wanted to like this one, but unfortunately, there were too many glaring issues that made this just an average read. I would recommend this as a library book if you are apt to pick it up.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.