Review | First & Then by Emma Mills

Review | First & Then by Emma MillsFirst & Then by Emma Mills
Published by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) on October 13th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Amazon US

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.

“Close your eyes, real tight, and then count to three hundred. That’s all you have to do. You just count to three hundred, and when you open your eyes, five minutes will have passed. And even if it hurts or things are shitty or you don’t know what to do, you just made it through five whole minutes. And when it feels like you can’t go on, you just close your eyes and do it again. That’s all you need. Just five minutes at a time.”

This is just the second book in my Pride and Prejudice month, and I’ve been quite lucky with my choices so far. This is such an adorable book!

Devon Tennyson started off her senior year in high school with her “Road to College” Club adviser to talk about her college essay and her performance in general. She’s an intelligent girl, but she never really took the effort to get out there and do more. She wasn’t even particularly sure where she wants to go…or if she even wants to go to college.

Now that she has to focus on her essay and woes of senior high (pre-college), she doesn’t need distractions; not her cousin and new housemate Foster, maybe not even her longstanding crush on her childhood best friend Cas Kincaid, and definitely not her classmate in P.E. and the football team captain and star running back, Ezra Lynley.

I love Ezra. What an awkward little turtle! You’d expect a handsome, talented man like Ezra to have the grace, confidence, and social skills of a jock, but he’s not at all like that. He’s a quiet, slightly awkward guy who comes off as brooding and arrogant. Like Darcy.

Oh man Ezra’s adorable. I could wax poetic about him all day! He’d be the type of book boyfriend I’d swoon over when I was their age. I’d still swoon over him in my age! He’s very thoughtful and sweet, and I loved his friendship and camaraderie with Foster. And did I say he was sweet? Because he is.

“…I feel about you the way they feel in those books. The way those guys feel about those girls that they don’t always deserve.”

Devon was a very relatable character. I remember being a senior in high school and worrying about my future. Like Devon, I had no concrete plan for college. I just knew I had to go because it’s what usually follows high school.

And her feelings and crushes! Devon wasn’t a perfect character; her prejudice is her main fault. But she’s real and she’s still charming and somehow lovable, and I think she and the characters in this book were perfect portrayals of what it’s like to be in high school and what it’s like to be a teenager.

I could see why people found it easy to talk to Devon. She’s effortlessly funny! Like this one:

“Yeah, but that’s Ezra. When he was born, he probably sprinted out of his mother and charged the delivery nurse.”

In the start of the book, Devon was a bit snarky, although she was pretty entertaining. She just others solely on their appearances and actions; like the freshman girls she called prosti-tots, her cousin Foster, and Ezra. Eventually, we see her grow into someone more mature, and we see her relationship with Foster, Ezra and the others around her change for the better.

Foster. Dear Foster. He wasn’t someone I expected as a character, but he was great! He came off as this awkward young cousin you’d avoid in school because he’s not the usual type, but he grew on Devon the way he grew on me. I loved seeing his relationship with Devon and even Devon’s parents grow. And I loved seeing him come out of his shell.

I tried to box in the characters in this story to the characters in Pride and Prejudice, and I guess I could only fully place Devon and Ezra in the roles of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. The others were a mix of different characters in P&P. Lindsay Renshaw, the pretty and genuinely nice girl who liked Cas, had a bit of Jane in her. Jordan Hunter, Ezra’s good friend, reminded me of Charles Bingley and Colonel Fitzwilliam. I’d say Cas had a little bit of Wickham in him, but he’s not really a Wickham. He also had a bit of Bingley in him somewhere.

There are no Caroline’s or Lady Catherine’s, there aren’t even any Mr. Collins-esque characters. But I was fine with it. I would have wanted a longer ending and definitely a longer moment for Ezra and Devon, and a few more conflict resolution, but in the end, I was still pretty happy.

First & Then managed to get the essence of Pride and Prejudice, and still have its own voice and story. It was not just the growth of Devon Tennyson and her letting go of her prejudices and first impressions; like in the blurb, it’s a story about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.

It’s a feel-good book that makes you giggle and smile and just feel happy. If you’re a YA fan who loves funny leading ladies, quiet, awkward and endearing jocks, and interesting side characters, this might be a book for you.


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