First and Then
by Emma Mills
This is one of those books that is really excellent while you're reading it, but then in hindsight you notice issues with it and your positive feelings start to dim a bit. At least, that's how it was for me. Still a good book, just not as amazing as I initially thought.Summary: 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.
But honestly, isn't it that initial burst of feelings that matter more? The way I feel about a book in the days or weeks after reading it are normally the deciding factor of whether or not it's a Favourite Book or not, but just loving a book while reading it is great, even if the feelings don't linger.
Anyway, I just wanted to explain that because I am going to talk about the negative things but I want to be clear that the majority didn't bug me much while I was actually reading the story.
I really loved the characters in the book. They were flawed, and I like that. Devon could be infuriatingly judgey (like coining the term "prostitots" for the younger girls who dress a certain way)...but her attitude was proven to be wrong in a subtle way that I liked. Nowadays books that try to talk about certain issues (like sexism or slut shaming or feminism) can get a bit Tumblr Social Justice Warrior...which isn't inherently a bad thing, but the dialogue can seem forced when it's done in that style. It didn't really come across that way in this and it felt more realistic for it.
The romance was really cute, definitely gave me Pride & Prejudice feels with it being a sort of Elizabeth/Darcy retelling. And I loved Foster (her cousin), he was adorable and the relationships she and Ezra had with him were adorable -- that was definitely one of my favourite parts.
I was kind of indifferent to the football stuff. I'm very fussy with sports and I've never quite understood the American love for "football" -- but the fact that I didn't hate the football stuff given my general opinion of it is a good thing.
As for the negatives... This first one actually did bug me a bit while reading, but not too much:
The Jane Austen stuff. Now, I get that the character is an Austen fan and I get that this was a Pride and Prejudice retelling, sort of, but I didn't like the way she'd go off on tangents about Austen or her novels and then awkwardly try to tie it in to the plot. Partly because I'm still working my way through Austen's books and this book spoiled Sense and Sensibility for me (yes, I have actually managed to go all these years without that happening), it would've been more fun going into it not knowing what would happen. But yeah, even ignoring that, I just wasn't fond of that aspect of it, it felt very contrived.
Not a big fan of the way her relationship with her best friend was handled. The funny banter they had going on was cute, but it just never really clicked why they were friends or why she would feel the way she does.
I also wasn't a fan of some of the side characters. Well, not so much the characters themselves but more the way they were written (and this aspect didn't start to annoy me until after I was finished).
The book is pretty short, so you'd expect that if an author makes the point of introducing a character in a certain way that they are going to have some significance...but there's two characters in this who are introduced and at the end it's just a bit "WTF?" because their stories literally go nowhere and just seem out of place because nothing was done with them. One of them just doesn't seem to fit into the story at all (and yet he shows up in the middle of a significant scene and takes it off on a tangent that felt unnecessary) and the other felt like her story should've had more to do with the plot than it actually ended up having.
There's even this bit in the story where you think (at least, I thought) that that was going to be the point that tied into one of the characters stories but it wasn't...it was just this random thing that happened. It led to some cute Foster/Devon and Ezra/Devon moments but beyond that... and then the way it does end it up tying into the main plot of the story, again, felt quite forced.
...It's really hard to explain without spoilers, but that's the best I can do. Basically, I just didn't like the way those two characters were written, and in such a short book it felt like one or even both of them could've been removed from the story without it having any real impact on the book overall.
Anyway, when I first finished the book it was a 4.5 story, then after a few days my feelings had dimmed bringing it to a 3.5...so lets go somewhere in between and say I rate the book 4 stars out of 5. It was a really addictive story and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing whatever Emma Mills releases next.