Book Review: First & Then by Emma Mills

firstandthen

This was a wonderful read. Not the kind of book that blows your mind away from page one but one that subtly worms it’s way into your mind and heart. The blurb presents this book as Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights but I won’t comment on that because I’ve never watched FNL. It’s also not an exact retelling of P&P but the vibes are definitely present and the understated writing is very similar to the way Austen talks about issues without making a big deal out of them.

Devon is a very relatable teenager. She believes she is average and boring, doesn’t have the talent for anything nor the work ethic to make up for it and is pretty apathetic towards most things. She knows she has to go to college but is not sure what she wants to do and doesn’t seem very interested in working on the essays for her applications. Only when she is compelled, she decides to become a TA and an assistant photographer for the sports section of the school newspaper.

Devon is also slightly resentful of having to deal with her cousin Foster who is now living with them. He is a sweet, adorable, nerdy kid but is emotionally closed off and never talks about his issues, especially abandonment by his mother. He can be awkward, probably has some form of anxiety, goes to therapy and can be found sitting in the bathtub or under the kitchen table when he feels overwhelmed. Throughout the book, we see their relationship develop from being slightly thorny to a tentative closeness to deeply caring about each other and it’s absolutely beautiful. Foster becoming a part of the football team also helps them bond and he gets to form friendships with his teammates.

Ezra is the new football star of the town, All-American, fawned on my everybody but also resented for his popularity, broody nature and not getting on well with others. Dev initially dislikes him, but when befriends Foster, sort of like a mentor, she starts understanding how loyal, caring and sweet he can be. He is as awkward as her putting this thoughts into words, but they form an unlikely friendship. Their feelings are obvious to us but misunderstandings, tempers and silences abound and it’s a very slow burn before anything happens. But it’s a lot of fun to watch it happen. The romance takes it’s time to develop and it’s sweet and has a very Austen feel. And Ezra is definitely a great Darcy-esque love interest whom I couldn’t help falling in love with.

There are also many other kids at the high school who are all not very fleshed out but still play a significant role in Devon’s personal growth throughout the book. Cas has always been her best friend and unrequited crush and theirs is a very easy dynamic – they live in their own bubble because it’s convenient. But slowly, because of a slightly pushy Mrs. Wentworth, effortlessly charming and very good at heart Jordan, highly ambitious and driven Rachel, the sweetest ever Lindsay, mysterious Emir and lots of others, she bursts her own bubble and is on her way to finding herself. Her college visit also gives her a sense of purpose and some confidence about her future.

The writing in this book is truly wonderful in a very effortless way. The story just flows through and you never want to put the book down. There are many instances where Devon compares what’s happening in her life to the situations in Sense & Sensibility or other Austen books and this warmed my heart. Their is even a nod to the infamous Colin Firth swimming scene from the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. This is a story of love and loss, friendship and family, the high school experience. It’s also about a town and it’s love for football and tradition. It’s about the effects of drunk driving and addiction on the lives of those left behind. It’s a beautiful story of a girl who becomes less judgemental, more assertive and finds love.

If you love YA or Jane Austen or Football or all of them, just read this book. I promise you will not be disappointed.

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Quotes:

Jane didn’t shy away from the truth about people. I felt like I knew her from reading her books, like I knew the kind of person she had been, and it was someone I liked a great deal. Someone who saw people for who they really were, someone who was capable of calling bullshit in the most elegant way imaginable. Jane would tell it like it is.

You don’t always want what’s better. Sometimes you just want what you want, the familiar, the dependable, the accessible.

“Why are any of us friends with the people we’re friends with?” Jordan went on. “They’ve got qualities we like – maybe some we see in ourselves. Maybe some we want to see in ourselves.”

I should’ve been better. But sometimes all you can really stand to do is think about yourself. Sometimes it’s the only way to make sense of something as colossal and intimidating as the world is to make it about you.

One of my favorite things about Jane’s books was the feelings – she understood that whole unrequited thing, how it felt to pine, how it felt to hope. But the best part was that sometimes the feelings became requited, and that was undeniably another facet of the allure for me. The heroines dared to love, dared to hope; their hopes and dashed, but then there’s the reversal! The revelation in the final act – the person reciprocates. They feel what our protagonist felt all along.

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14 thoughts on “Book Review: First & Then by Emma Mills

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  1. Beautiful review! ❤ I love how you mention that the writing in this book is beautiful in an effortless way, that's exactly how I felt about it! ❤ I really liked following Devon and seeing her grow as the story went along and I can't wait to read more from the author 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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