First & Then by Emma Mills
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: October 13, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
What I Liked:
There is only one way to describe this book that comes even slightly close to how I feel, and that is OMG! I loved this book! I'm not usually a YA contemporary person, but this book turned up the feels. P&P meets Friday Night Lights? Yes. Yes, that is a good comparison. Usually the ____ meets _____ in _____ are crap, but this one was very accurate, and lovely!
Devon doesn't really have a plan for her future, in terms of college, She knows she wants to go, but she isn't driven. She's comfortable as is, with her best friend Cas (who she has had a crush on for forever) and the Friday night football games. Her cousin, Foster, is now living with her and her parents, which has been a change. And a new change arrives as well - the star running back of the school is in her PE class, and soon he is everywhere. Things were a lot more simple without Foster, or Ezra, or her conflicted feelings about Cas, but Devon's life won't be simple again.
First, I'd like to say that there ins't a love triangle in this book. At least, not in my opinion. Devon has had a crush on her friend Cas, who is on the football team. But they're best friends, and Devon would rather be friends with him than speak up and ruin what they have. She knows how he is - he hooks up with whoever he wants to - but she loves being his friend.
Ezra is a new guy, in that he is a transfer student to their high school. He is a star football player, a running back with insane stats from his old school. Cas and other football players don't like him, because they think he has some sort of agenda. Ezra is quiet, always scowling, focused on football. He is intense, in a mysterious way.
So anyway, No love triangle. There is romance, and I absolutely love watching it develop. Devon's crush on Cas is surprisingly not a huge part of this book. Like, the author doesn't keep bringing it up. Sometimes you forget that Devon likes him like that. And then when Devon and Ezra's interactions start to pick up, you can't help but sigh happily.
The progression of several relationships in this book is so well-written and well-paced! Devon's relationship with Ezra is very slow - in a good way, in my opinion. She thinks he is a jerk at first, probably because he doesn't talk to anyone, like a silent arrogant d*ckhead. But slowly, they start to get to know each other, and Devon doesn't even realize that she has feelings for him. The amount of times their relationship made my heart flutter, made me swoon... there aren't ANY physical romantic interactions between these two, in this book. And yet, the romance is one of the swooniest I've read!
There is also Devon's relationship with her cousin, Foster. Foster is a freshman, and he is really strange. He is naturally curious, always chipper, and just strange. His father died and his mother is in rehab, so he's living with Devon and her parents. Devon has to have a lot of patience with him, and this is something she understands as the story goes on. I love her relationship with her new "brother". And I love how Foster gets along with Ezra, and vice versa.
The story is so lovely! It moves at a bit of a slow pace, and it might not feel like much is happening, but it's amazing how quickly the pages went. I couldn't read this book fast enough! It's one of those magnetic reads, you can't let go of it. There is so much football in this book - with Ezra, Cas, and several friends of Devon's on the team. I love football, and I love how important it was in this book!
I really like Devon. She and I are so different - she has zero ambition, no involvement in extracurricular activities, no desire to be better. And yet, I understand her. I love how she treats Foster. I like how she handles Ezra (especially in the first scene in gym class!). Devon is loyal and kind, and she sticks up for herself and Foster. Her character growth is so well-developed; she becomes a much more mature character by the end of the book.
Overall, I absolutely adored this book. There was something powerful and moving about it, and I definitely had a case of intense feels while reading it. It seemed like a retelling of Pride and Prejudice! And a good one, at that. Lots of Jane Austen references in this book. I was a fan!
What I Did Not Like:
I personally would have liked to see more physically swoony scenes between Ezra and Devon. While I can definitely see that not being their style, or the book's style (P&P didn't have a lot of physical intimate scenes), I would have liked that! The one physical interaction comes at the last few pages. The book is swoony, but not in a physical way! Having both would have been icing on the cake. Of course, this is totally an Alyssa thing, so carry on!
Would I Recommend It:
I would soooo recommend this book! Definitely one of my favorite YA contemporary books for the year. This book was all sorts of amazing, with a kind heroine, a swoony romance, and great development of relationships. And there was a certain side of tough issues in this book that gave it that much more depth, without it being ridiculously angsty and annoying! So, non-contemporary people (like me), or contemporary lovers, will enjoy this book, I just know it!
4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars (not for any specific reason, just that it didn't quite feel like a 5-star read. I cannot wait to read more from this author! Hopefully she writes more contemporary (wow, I can't believe I'm asking for more contemporary!), and swoonier romances, too!
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