Firsts By Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

I received this galley in consideration for an honest review.

Firsts By Laurie Elizabeth FlynnFirsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 5, 2015
Genres: Young Adult
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, FIRSTS is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.

 

I was very anxious to read Firsts because I was intrigued by the premise and knew that it would be a story I would likely be thinking about for a long time.  I felt that Mercedes (Mercy) was a complicated character. In many ways, Mercedes is living two lives; that of the serious and driven student who attends prayer group and then the person who has guys up to her room for sexual instruction.  She is very good at compartmentalizing, until everything eventually starts to bleed together. Her friendships, and even a possible romantic relationship, start to suffer because while she thinks she is keeping it together, those that know and love her can sense she is holding a part of her past, and present, away from her friends.  She is struggling with her identity, her faith, and a traumatic experience from her past that seems to inform her decision to start helping the guys.  It’s clear that Mercedes is dealing with some heavy emotional weight in her life.  Intellectually, she knows she’s not an object, but everything in her life,  from being named after her father’s favorite car,  to her mother’s belief that her worth comes from her looks, seems to suggest otherwise.  Her mom’s passive emotional negligence creates a lot of bitterness in Mercy, and her past sexual experience, which we really don’t find out about until the end, creates this other part of Mercy where she feels she must help these guys.  Slowly, though, it starts to chip away at her as she realizes that maybe what she is doing is taking more of a toll on her than she first thought it would.   I appreciated, though, that the story didn’t flinch away from both Mercy’s enjoyment of sex and her conflicted feelings about it afterward.

There were a few things that weakened the story, in my opinion. The character of Faye was your typical magical friend who just appears in order to fix everything, and there was a side story involving Mercy’s dad that seemed to be left dangling, as well.  Despite those flaws, I gave it a high rating because I kept thinking about this book after I finished it.  I can’t think of many other books I’ve read that confront teen feelings about sex, both in boys and girls, the way Firsts does.  It’s challenging, it’s a little uncomfortable, at times, but it is very honest.    The way that Mercy is treated versus the way the guys are treated shines a bright light on the unequal way society views female sexuality.  Firsts does not glorify sex, but neither does is demonize it.  For that reason, its honesty about the good and the bad that can result from sex was refreshing to me as a reader.  It shows, very clearly, that intimacy and sex are two different things and what you choose to give of yourself, either physically or emotionally, is up to you.  In addition, it was a really compelling story.  Once I started, I couldn’t put it down and stayed up very late to find out what happened in the end.  I honestly don’t know how this book will be received, but I can tell you that it is worth a place on your reading list.

four-half-stars

About Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Laurie went to school for Journalism, where the most important thing she learned was that she would rather write made-up stories than report the news. She also worked as a model, a job that took her overseas to Tokyo, Athens, and Paris. Laurie now lives in London, Ontario with her husband Steve, who is very understanding when she would rather spend time with the people in her head. Laurie can mostly be found writing happily at her desk, with the world’s most spoiled Chihuahua on her lap. Laurie drinks way too much coffee, snorts when she laughs, and times herself when she does crossword puzzles.

Kate @ Ex Libris


7 responses to “Firsts By Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

  1. I have an ecopy of this one that I’ve been meaning to get to – while the premise sounds controversial, reviews seem to indicate that the author has done a good job in portraying the intricacies and subtleties of teenage sex. Really enjoyed reading your take on it!

  2. I loved this book! Your review encompasses all of my feelings, and I so agree about Faye being a bit too convenient, turning up just when she did. I can;t stop thinking about the book either, even 4 months after I read – which is really surprising these days. I felt like it contained a lot of really important topics, and that Laurie did a wonderful job with the whole story.

    Fantastic review, as always!

    Sophie @ Sophie Reads YA

  3. I only skimmed your review, since I just started this last night. I’m only 15% in and I know that it’s going to be a great story. I was put off at first, but then I figured everything would unravel soon.

  4. So glad to hear that you enjoyed this book! I love that you found it to be a compelling story. Sadly I can’t see myself reading it – tough-issue contemporary in YA and I just don’t get along! I love seeing great reviews for this book though – I’m sure it will be well-loved, like you loved it! Fantastic review, Kate. 🙂

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

  5. Woah, your review totally makes me want to open up my eCopy and read this one now! It definitely sounds a lot more different than other YA novels… Can’t wait to see what’s in store 🙂 Great review!!

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