I read this book at the end of December, and it was a book that when I had completed it, it kept creeping into my thoughts. This book offers a lot of powerful and interesting messages that often get ignored. Raincoast has once again asked us to be a part of a blog tour, and River and I are here to give our thoughts on Firsts. This book definitely is one that will make you think, as it offers some insight into double standards.
Author: Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
Rating: ★★★★ / ★★★
Synopsis: 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.
Huge thank you to Raincoast / St. Martin’s Griffin for these ARCs!
Sam’s Review (4 Stars):
Back when I went to the #TeensRead event in September, this book was discussed in quite amount of detail about it being “more than meets the eye.” Since I’ve finished it, it’s still a book that replays in my mind because the topics that it discusses are really important, and it’s hard to ignore why they need to be brought into the forefront.
This is a book about double standards, particularly when it comes to sex. It’s about boys who enlist in a young woman to help them be better in bed so that they can give their girlfriends the best first time ever. They are cheaters, and if cheating a topic that makes you uncomfortable (as it does me), then this book is going to be a rough ride (no pun intended) for you as a reader. When Mercedes is found out to have been offering such services, she is the one who takes the blame, not the guys. Why? Because women always suffer in the double standard when it comes to sex, and that means they have to be the one to suffer the consequences and the fallout because a lot of these men can’t man up into doing the right thing.
I loved Mercy’s voice, and that’s really what has stayed with me. On one hand, she knows that she is sexual empowered and desires to be in control of her sexual encounters (especially when you learn why this is the case). I loved her refreshing honesty when it came to sex, and her tips to a lot of the men were wonderfully valid. Her voice was something I couldn’t get out of my head, especially when people find out what her services entailed. I felt for her, I did. Especially when she wants to protect her friendship with Angela, someone who loves her as is. Mercy loses nearly everything in this story, and yet she knows she can’t hide from the voices attacking her, or the blackmail that threatens her. She’s stronger than she gives herself credit for throughout the story, and I loved her friendship with Faye and Zach, because with them, she has extra support and strength, even if it wasn’t easy to obtain.
I also loved the double-standard presented between Mercedes and Kim, especially considering how absent of a parent Kim is, and her desire to be young the way her daughter is. It’s horrifically problematic, but I loved the way in which both characters attempt a face-off and somewhat come together on their own terms.
I think the hardest part of this book for me was that it feels older in tone than what is actually on the page. I totally get that sex is a thing that keeps happening younger and younger, but Mercedes read at times like an experienced belle, wise beyond her years. It was a bit strange at first, but it grew on me.
This book offers so many powerful moments that are both awful, sad, compelling, and it’s compulsively readable. Even if you find the content hard to stomach, it’s one of those books that is so well-written that it keeps you wanting to understand more and more about the double-standards and how Mercedes will carry on. I felt for her, and I think that’s why I loved this book as much as I did.
River’s Review (3 Stars):
I knew going into this book I was probably going to have some issues with it. It sounded way too NA for me (and I really dislike most NA). And I honestly think that this would have been a much stronger book with an older cast of characters.
But, you say, why can’t a teen have an active sex life?! That’s… not why I feel like these characters should have been older. I feel like they should have been older because Mercedes read as older than she was. And yes, she had issues and an absent mom who wanted to be twenty and not an actual mom and blah blah blah but for real, this girl had way too much confidence when it came to sex. And we find out that when she starts this “First time” service she’s not even that experienced herself! So where does all of this knowledge and confidence come from? That’s what I didn’t feel was very real. She was dressing up in sexy nighties and “teaching” these guys but… who taught her? Cuz nobody really did.
And sadly a lot of the WOOHOO GIRL POWER was lost on me because I spent so much time screaming BUT HOW. I DID like that she was so sexual empowered! I did like that she was confident with her body! I did like that she took care of herself! There was a very strong message about girls and sex in this book, one that books like The DUFF (another book that was a low rating for me because the MC just didn’t work for me) are also participating in.
I do think that this message is important. I do think that the double standards should be addressed. I see so many people saying BUT HOW COULD SHE CHEAT WITH ALL THOSE BOYS. Guess what. SHE didn’t cheat… THEY did. Mercedes was single THE ENTIRE TIME SHE WAS SLEEPING WITH THOSE BOYS. THEY were the ones in relationships. And who takes the brunt of it when everything falls apart? The female.
I can see why people love this book and I agree with a lot of the good stuff being said. But I really think that a college background would have worked better for me. (Unless I’m showing my age and 95% of teens are losing it in high school? :old lady voice: When I was in school… yeah.)
Q&A With Laurie Elizabeth Flynn!
1. Firsts was all about “first times.” Why was this such an important topic for you
There are so many firsts in a teen’s life, and the first time having sex is one of
them. I wanted to explore the expectations surrounding sex and the loss of virginity for
both teen girls and teen boys. There is so much pressure on both sides—boys are
expected to be born ready, and girls are expected to wait for the right person, who
probably takes the form of a long-term boyfriend. Society hammers standards into sex and
paints a picture of how it “should” be in our heads. But the truth is, there are so
many ways a first time can go. It’s rarely ever perfect. For some, it’s romantic and
memorable. For others, it’s awkward and clumsy. Some people want to wait. Others want
to get it over with. Some talk with their friends and others keep it to themselves. It
was important to me to show several different first times and express that it’s not the
same for everyone.
2. What makes Firsts a unique novel in the YA spectrum? What do you think makes it an
important read for young adults?
I think Firsts is unique because it’s told from an unlikely perspective—not only a
girl having sex with multiple partners, but a girl sleeping with other people’s
boyfriends. She’s a girl who might seem easy to hate, but I wanted to show all of her
dimensions. I wanted to show who she really is and tell her story. This is important for
young adults because teens make mistakes. Adults make mistakes. We all make decisions,
and they’re not always the right ones. I think it’s necessary that we can find flawed
characters between the pages of books. I made a lot of mistakes growing up, and seeing
myself reflected in book characters always made me feel better, even though they were
fictional and my problems were real.
We hope you enjoyed our reviews and the Q&A with Laurie. We wish Laurie tons of success with Firsts! Craving more content about Laurie’s debut? Make sure to check out the other stops on this blog tour! And once again huge thank you to Laurie and Raincoast for all their help and insight, as we love doing this!