Written by: Emma Mills
Published by: Henry Holt & Co.
Release date: October 13th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: 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.
First & Then is a really charming, quick read. The comparison to Friday Night Lights and Pride and Prejudice in the summary is apt, as this is essentially a contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s tale, with high school football (the players, the Friday night games, etc) as a focal point.
The main character, Devon, loves Jane Austen, which was a cute quirk — she compared pretty much everything to elements from Jane Austen novels. (Though, I thought it was interesting that Pride and Prejudice wasn’t mentioned until the end — considering Devon’s own predicaments mirrored that book pretty closely, the fact that she didn’t at least compare Ezra to Mr. Darcy was a conspicuous absence, for me. Granted, it probably would’ve been weird to have her notice all the similarities with Pride and Prejudice, but still.)
The relationships that I thought First & Then explored the best were actually not the romantic ones. This book does a great job exploring the relationship between Devon and her best friend (and secret years-long crush) Cas, through their ups and downs. And the book also has an amazingly touching relationship between Devon and her cousin Foster, who comes to live with Devon and her family when Foster’s own mom is deemed unfit to take care of him.
However, Ezra’s and Devon’s own relationship was, I thought, sort of underdeveloped. But that’s not to say I didn’t love the characters on their own. It took me until about halfway through the book (page 120-something, I think) to really ‘get’ why people seemed to be loving this one — Ezra. He’s First & Then‘s Mr. Darcy, and I mean that fairly literally. His development was exactly what one would expect from a “Mr. Darcy” character (seems like a jerk at first, but then you very slowly come to realize that there’s a lot more to his aloofness than you first assumed) — but that doesn’t make him any less attractive as a character. Devon herself was refreshingly ordinary for a contemporary heroine: She’s an average student, has a pretty normal personal life (not tons of friends, not no friends), and she’s just… a regular girl. She doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life, other than knowing she wants to (should?) go to college, but she’s not sure where she wants to go yet. She wasn’t as well-developed as Ezra, in my opinion, but she was pretty good.
But back to Ezra and Devon’s relationship. I loved how Devon slowly got to know Ezra throughout the book — but that’s the entire book. I know this is pretty much how Pride and Prejudice goes, but View Spoiler »they finally realize they like each other and then the book just ends. « Hide Spoiler… There’s nothing horribly wrong with that, but since we don’t get very much in the last few pages of the book, I would’ve liked to have felt more attachment, more chemistry… just more, during the rest of the book.
All in all, though, this was a super fast, cute read, and I think fans of Jane Austen and lighter YA contemporaries should definitely give it a shot.