Friday, 15 January 2016
Review: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
Publisher: St.Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: January 5th, 2016
Source: Publisher **I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**
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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.
Okay, here's the thing, Firsts is a unique novel in the YA genre because of it's no bullshit way of talking about sex. I've stated many times about how disappointing it is to see authors, books, etc... in the YA community shy away from sex. Newsflash teenagers have sex. So I'm still confused as to why teenagers in books glance over that huge part of their lifestyle. Anyhow, this is about Firsts. Which has me on the fence. Well I really admired the real life sexual experiences the book did not blow me away(totally good pun there. Ha!). And that had everything to do with the MC, Mercedes.
I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty here and dissect the book. I'm going to break this down into two sections, the sex and than my issues with Mercedes.
Although Firsts doesn't necessarily portray the many sexual encounters throughout the book in a positive note, I'd still call Firsts a sex positive book because 90% of it is about practicing safe sex. Which to me is the important part. Mercedes is well versed in all aspects of safe sex. She makes sure to teach these guys, who are virgins, the proper way to put on a condom. The proper way to pull out and take off a condom. Hell, in one class we get the teacher doing the whole condom and banana thing. It's uncomfortable to watch, for all involved. But why have I yet to come across a YA book that brings this up. Sure condoms are mentioned but it's usually more on the subtle side. Like it's taboo. Firsts isn't a crude book, but it definitely doesn't fade to black. It keeps things real with the awkwardness and newness these guys experience on their first go. But it also shows how it can be pleasurable, fun and spontaneous once you know your partner(although Mercedes and Zach were nothing more than sex partners). I just appreciated that it wasn't all about this kind of sex. Firsts explores many aspects; the good, the bad and the ugly.
My empathy for Mercedes is pretty much nil. I knew that when the reveal came at the end that poor girl experienced something inexcusable when she was younger. But that doesn't mean I have to like her or understand her reasoning behind her actions. I found Mercedes to be bland. Her lack of personality really took away from what could have been a spunky but naive girl. She's still very very naive. And I found her cry for attention very misplaced. Her mom may not have been wining any mother of the year award, but Mercedes sure wasn't doing her best to try and mend the relationship. Mercedes was a user too; she used Zach, Angela and Faye. It boggles my mind that Zach and Angela would remain her friend after how shitty she was to them. For me her past doesn't excuse her present behavior. Faye I could understand. It had some strong elements of a female friendship, but was also boarding on the toxic side. My biggest issue was I just didn't get why Mercedes wanted to get involved in these guys lives; take their virginity. Why do you care? It's so unimportant for her, which is essentially a third party. You are technically getting them to cheat and than anticipating nothing will come of it. Because that would stay hush hush forever. This is high school, girl. The shit hitting the fan was inevitable. Mind your own damn business. Like I said, my empathy and understanding just weren't hanging around. And maybe that just comes down to not liking Mercedes. Either way...
I'm not going to say stay away from this book. Firsts keeps it real and for that I definitely say check it out. Mercedes isn't my type of character. She has too many weaknesses without showing me growth or just any sort of relate-bility; I would not be able to hold a conversation with her in real life. But that's me. Others may find her actions understandable and that's what makes reading subjective. I enjoyed Firsts just couldn't love it.