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Firsts: A Novel by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
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Firsts: A Novel (edition 2016)

by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn (Author)

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8113222,139 (3.75)1
Member:janersm
Title:Firsts: A Novel
Authors:Laurie Elizabeth Flynn (Author)
Info:A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin's Griffin (2016), 336 pages
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Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

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Read the full review on my blog!

First off, I would just like to mention this is the first book I have done a proper review for from Netgalley, and I just want to thank St. Martin's Griffin from giving me the opportunity to read this book!

Firstly, I found the start of this book to be a little slow. It wasn't a bad part, it just felt like a description of Mercedes having sex with multiple guys, and saying each one would be her last. Also, I'm kinda glad Mercedes was able to admit to herself that she wasn't just having sex with them for their benefit, because it was easy to tell she wanted it too.

I'm not entirely sure how to write this review properly without giving away much of the plot of the book, but I think it was easy to presume what w0uld happen to Mercedes system right from the start of the book, however I didn't think he would be the one to do it. I thought Mercedes must be pretty naive to not even consider the system would fall apart at some point, and before she started she should've considered the consequences of what would happen if people found out. However, I still wasn't expecting exactly what happened.

It was quite annoying that Mercedes wouldn't admit to herself that she wanted to be with Zach, and when she became annoyed with Freya I found myself getting annoyed, because it wasn't fair for her to lead Zach on and then expect him to just wait around.

I could comment on so many different areas of this book but it would ruin what happened overall, so I think it's time to stop. The final thing I want to say is that I'm kind of disappointed that Freya and Mercedes didn't happen. Overall though, I really enjoyed this book and I will definitely buy it when it is released. ( )
  perksofbeingpeculiar | Jan 17, 2019 |
This was a very insightful read into a topic that is rarely discussed, much less in YA lit. Now, I've said before I don't like stories about cheating, or romance, or sex, but the exploration and ownership of sexuality by teenage girls discussed in Firsts is an important one.

While I do not agree with the actions Mercedes takes throughout the novel, it's written in a way that I just couldn't hate her for what she did. She sleeps with many, many, boys, all of whom have girlfriends. It's awful. Mercedes justifies it in her own way, thinking she's helping the boys. The novel does call it out as cheating eventually. You know that there's going to be a huge fallout. Though I believe that Mercedes deserved some amount of it, I also felt bad for her.

And yet - it's a coping mechanism, and it unfolds throughout the story to show sex as Mercedes' way of coping with a rape and subsequent pregnancy as it gives her the feeling of control - or, hypersexuality as a medical condition. It's destructive and awful to read about, but it's eye-opening. Her character development is good but a bit abrupt at the end, as everything seems to be solved as she comes to the realization that she's losing control over herself. People forgive her too easily, especially Zach.

Though I generally liked how the issues in this novel was discussed, I'm a bit disappointed that rape and sexual assault wasn't discussed directly, because there were a lot of situations that warranted a discussion of it. It would have added that much more to the topics Firsts was attempting to explore. ( )
  jwmchen | Nov 4, 2017 |
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Often in YA novels, when it comes to sex, making love, whatever kids call it these days, the topic is avoided or skirted around. You'll never hear about what exactly happens "in-the-bedroom", beyond the fact that they had sex.

Firsts is different, and I'd say it is indeed one of the first (aha get it?) to bringing up sex in such an honest and frank way in YA. Because it's true, as much as our parents try to deny it, that sex happens. It certainly isn't sparkling rainbows and sunshine when it occurs the first time, despite what all those romance novels have led you to believe. Firsts opens you up to the true nature of sex.

Mercedes Ayres, underneath her quiet, Chemistry loving persona, believes she is doing something good by helping guys with girlfriends overcome their first time through instruction in the bedroom. They'll have sex, she'll give them pointers, and give the "proper" first time to their girlfriends. She planned to stop after 10 guys. But of course, not everything goes her way.

I liked Mercedes. She's a flawed, she's imperfect, she's human. She thinks she's doing the right thing by helping those guys because her first time was terrible (much more terrible than you believe!). She also has a mom who is there physically but not mentally, and a dad who is vice versa. And even though she hides her true self from others, she's at least somewhat honest to herself. Well, she's figuring herself out, and you can't blame her. It only makes her a more relatable and likable heroine. Plus, as a Chemistry major, I was very happy that Mercedes loves Chemistry as well. Flynn worked chemistry (the subject) and chemistry (the attraction) very cleverly together!

Check out the rest of the review here at Wonderland Novels! ( )
  raisinetta | Sep 25, 2017 |
I was very glad to be able to review this. So, first of all, I have to thank Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for providing me with the ARC, on a read-to-review basis.

In sum, Mercedes lives in a dysfunctional family. Her father left home when she was younger—and named her after a car—, her mother is never really home except to push for unhealthy diets and to give not-very-age-appropriate advices, and the person she used to love used her, fooling her into sleeping with him. When she was thirteen. Thus, she decides to help other girls have a better first sexual experience by teaching their virgin boyfriends how to treat a girl right. She surrounds herself with numbers and formulas, and try to follow logic, patterns. At school, she is friends with the person who wouldn't pry into her secret life, who also happens to be a convict Christian. At home, she refuses to call her mother by name. She also won't accept that her "Wednesday friend" becomes anything beyond a one-day-a-week fun time. For Mercedes, life can be fit in a formula, and if she balances right on one side, she'll know what to expect on the other. She follows her strict rules. Until she doesn't.

The five-virgins pay-forward deal becomes ten going to eleven, and she doesn't even enjoy going through planning the big date prior to the act, or giving detailed instructions. Maybe the last few weren't even virgins but she did enjoy it. Sometimes, not even that but she did agree to it, so she has to go to the end. One day, it is her best friend's boyfriend who asks for her help.

I really enjoyed how the author conducted the organization of chaos Mercedes so desperately tried to force. Mercedes herself was a great character for a third of the book. To be honest, I liked most of the characters portrayed here. Even when they didn't act ideally, I could understand them. Like how Angela doesn't seem to notice much about her friend or perhaps not care, in case she does notice how on the verge of a collapse Mercedes finds herself. I loved Faye in that aspect. She was always there in a very believable manner.

And I'll start my critics from here. I feel the author got lost on what she was going for in the middle of the story. I asked myself many times if this wasn't LGBT because Mercedes friendship with Faye was time and again questioned as a possible physical attraction (and Mercedes being as methodical came to terms rather easily). Mercedes's mom was great. You know, she is responsible for her daughter's state of mind but I was unable to hate her, it was more like a love-to-hate feeling? I found her very charismatic and proof the author is very capable of building antagonizing characters. And then there was Zach. I found him cute from the start but I wasn't sure if I should cheer for them. Especially when he's not even mentioned on the summary.

Now I mentioned it, the summary is almost a spoiler, because the boyfriend, Charlie, only does anything at around 61% of the book. He's also my big no-no. The author recognizes by the ending Charlie seemed to have changed overnight. But why? Indeed, because Mercedes never got close, we don't know much of Charlie but this overnight observation comes from his very own girlfriend. Is he mentally ill? Was there a good reason? I feel the author should have spent more time there instead of villainizing him, black on white. It was a let-down because for 61% I impatiently waited for his proposition to Mercedes, but he wasn't himself by then. Moreover, we didn't need a bad guy for Mercedes's charade to fall through, and we reach the climax. I was biting my nails knowing it would all come down pretty soon. It's obvious the world has too many elements for someone to bring it to a formula—and the book recognizes that. Last, I don't want to spoil it but I didn't like Faye's plan by the end. I don't think it equalizes with what had happened. And I can't criticize this point but neither can I help not liking how the boyfriends were never much of the focus, though I'll give it to the author for at least acknowledging their share of the blame—through Faye's lines, have I mentioned how much I like her?

Summing up, I loved the author's style and would like to read more by her from now. This didn't get a higher grade but I can see her reaching five stars with other stories, Preferably if they are as daring as Firsts. She got me for follower. ( )
  AnnaBastos | Jun 13, 2017 |
This book was good, but it wasn't. That may not be obvious since I rated it so low. Firsts tackled some tough subjects, but it didn't really do so in a great or helpful way. I honestly wonder if it may have done more harm than good. The intention of the author, much like the intention of the main character Mercedes Ayres, was probably a good one at heart, but, as the proverb goes, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." Good intentions cannot fix what is truly wrong with this book.

I understand the attempt to soften the approach people take to cheating and slut-shaming, but it doesn't actually achieve that. Instead, it pushes those stereotypes even further and dismisses criminal behavior as seduction and bad parenting. Luke is portrayed as the former boyfriend, while the behavior described is clearly sexually abusive. He groomed Mercedes before forcing her to perform oral sex on him and before eventually raping her. Charlie's actions are not really any better. Filming a person having sex without their consent is illegal. Trying to physically force someone to have sex with you is illegal. Attempting to blackmail someone over their sex life is, you guessed it, illegal. But the author chooses to say that Charlie was trying to "seduce" Mercedes. No, that's not seduction. Those are acts of sexual violence. Kim is an emotionally abusive and emotionally & physically neglectful mother, and Mercedes' absentee father who decided to punish Mercedes for her mom's decisions isn't much better. Kim is portrayed as a slut and a bimbo who only cares about spending the ill-gotten gains of her ex-husband. It's the kind of storyline that you might get from websites run by "men's rights activists" and MGTOW. Faye is the supposed-to-be-subtle-but-really-isn't cautionary tale. Zach is the night-in-shining armor. Angela is the good girl, the girl with the patience of a saint and who is let back into Mercy's life too easily. Mercedes is the fallen girl/girl gone bad who takes on the sins of all those involved & is nearly ruined in the process. She is constantly obsessing over what side she should show others, which is something that a lot of people feel, but it was never really addressed in the book. Yes, there's the whole, her mom screwed up how she thinks about sex, beauty, weight, etc., but that's not enough to explain why she is so hyper-critical and why she is convinced that she is unlovable. And if you're going to spend a whole book tearing down the main character's self-esteem, then you need to spend more than a couple of pages making her act like she's all-better all of a sudden.

Sometimes it came across as preachy. No, wait, it always came across as preachy. The sex lives of most of the characters in the book are regularly criticized. Angela, Mercy's BFF, is super-religious and pushes her faith onto everyone. (There are even Bible verses that are quoted and referenced.) Her sex-negative attitude only pushes Mercy to hide her actions. Kim's antics seem to push the idea that adultery leads women to even more vice-filled lives. Mercy's internal dialogue about how many guys she's had sex with pushed the idea that girls & women who have 'too much' sex might be seen as used up goods. The outcome at school for Mercedes pushes the idea that women and girls have to be punished for being sexual.

When Mercedes describes how she feels about sex and intimacy, even when she sometimes thinks she's attracted to Faye, it's almost like reading a pamphlet on sex addiction. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed by the way that her pseudo-attraction to Faye was handled. I know that with sex addiction, a person might engage in sex with people that they aren't really attracted to, but the whole "is she going to kiss me" thing that existed through most of their interactions was just shrugged away toward the end. I didn't know if Mercedes was only thinking about Faye that way because she really doesn't understand relationship boundaries or if she might not be as heterosexual as she eventually felt the need to declare she was. Sex addiction or figuring out that you're LGBTQ might be an interesting topic to cover in a novel, but it needs to be addressed in a better way.

Come to think of it: all of the issues that are described within the book need to be addressed properly.

In attempting to counter the sex-negativity that people, especially women and girls, encounter in their lives, the book actually pushed an even more sex-negative outlook. The book essentially normalized sexual violence, parental neglect, and shaming young women for being interested in sex. That's why I don't think I could ever truly love this book. It almost seemed like a book I could like until it became clear that it was just another in a long line of anti-sex books with ambiguous attitudes toward abuse and sexual assault. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. ( )
  janersm | Dec 29, 2016 |
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For Steve—my last, my only, my everything
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Tonight, I’m doing Evan Brown’s girlfriend a favor.
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When word gets out that seventeen-year-old Mercedes has been sleeping with virgins so they can give their girlfriends the perfect first time she never had, she must salvage her reputation and determine where her heart belongs.

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