Book Review: ‘Firsts’ by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

January 10, 2016     Holly     Reviews

Book Review: ‘Firsts’ by Laurie Elizabeth FlynnFirsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on January 5, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Dating & Sex
Pages: 320
Format: ARC, Kindle Edition
Source: Review Copy
2 Stars

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.

Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn was a book that I had seriously high expectations for. I should I knew there was going to be an issue right then and there. Because in the end, it turned out I just couldn’t make myself like this novel.

What had me so immediately excited about Firsts was its premise, an original and intriguing story about a girl who provides first times for boys in her high school, providing dos and don’ts so that they can make the first time for their respective girlfriends something wonderful. Young adult novels generally stay away from the whole sex issue these days, and if it is mentioned it’s magical and perfect and forget-me-not great. Flynn uses Firsts in a more practical manner, which is refreshing and original.

Only it gets ruined by the main character, Mercedes. She’s smart, driven, determined to reach her goals…and a horrible, horrible decision maker. And I thought, “Okay, these bad decisions are going to make her an interesting protagonist.” Wrong. So very, very wrong. Instead, it made me want to throw my Kindle across the room several times in disgust. Mercedes is just an unlikable character that I could find very little sympathy for as a reader.

And it’s not even that she’s helping boys cheat on their girlfriends, if you want to look at the bare facts. And I, of course, wasn’t in any way pleased to read about her past experiences that she was using to justify her actions because they were truly terrible situations. It’s the fact that she shows no remorse for her actions in Firsts, even when everything starts to fall apart and she’s exposed to the school and everyone in it.

And I’m not saying that she should feel remorse for having sex with boys. Because I don’t think it’s right to ever portray the idea of “You’re a slut if you have sex.” My problem with Mercedes and her situation is that she seems to radiate the idea that she’s only sorry that she got caught sleeping with other girl’s boyfriends, not that she was sleeping with various boyfriends period.

So, basically, I don’t hate Mercedes. I don’t really. I’m not slut-shaming, or think she’s stupid, or anything like that. But I hate what Mercedes does, which is keep making excuses for her actions and expect everything to turn out hunky-dory because these guys all have “something to lose.” For someone who is so smart, she doesn’t think.

But that’s enough about Mercedes. What I did like about Firsts was Zach and Faye, who stand by Mercy’s side throughout the whole ordeal. And neither of them get treated all that well throughout Firsts. But I also feel like I never got to truly know their characters because so little attention was played on their roles in the story compared to everything else. I also liked Flynn’s focus on safe sex during the novel, acknowledging that teenagers have sex, no matter what anyone wants to believe, and that if you’re going to display that in a YA novel, at least try and teach something. 

Basically, I really wanted to come into this review waving my hands in the air like a crazy person because Firsts was just SO GOOD and YAY FOR REALISTIC AND EDGY YA FICTION! But alas, I was sorely let down as a reader.

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