First & Then by Emma Mills
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Release date: October 13th, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt (Macmillan)
Length: 272 pages
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.
Oo, I needed this book. I've was in a bit of a reading slump, the kind where I'm reading six or so books at once and none of them are really grabbing me. I took First & Then and a few other books to my favorite local cafe, planning to grab some caffeine and maybe see if I'd get hooked by any of my reading options. Reader, by the time I let that cafe, two hours later, I'd had three cups of coffee and had finished all of First & Then.
I am the kind of person that marketing copy was written for. I love football. I am a devoted Janeite to the degree that the main character, Devon is. Every time Devon talked about her feelings for Jane Austen, I was thinking how her thoughts could have been a page ripped out of my diary (not that I have a diary, but you know).
But what I think is so fun and great about Devon's story is that you don't have to love Jane Austen or football to love this story (though if you ask me football and Jane Austen are two of the best things on earth because I am both hopelessly American and pathologically anglophilic all at once). Devon's voice is so funny and engaging, and the characters so warm and amusing, that I feel like most anyone in the mood for a funny but feelsy contemporary with HEAPS of family feels and a supes cute romance could fall head over cleats for First & Then.
This book isn't a straight up retelling of Pride and Prejudice, but it's a gorgeous homage to it by playing on a lot of the dynamics that Jane is working with and having them apply to the life of directionless high school senior Devon, who has no idea where she wants to go to college, what she wants to do with her life, or how to deal with the little cousin who is suddenly living in her house. Foster, said cousin, is geeky, annoying, and has a tendency to respond to things far too literally. He is also a GEM of a character. OMG, FOSTER, YOU PRECIOUS BABY. Actual star of the novel.
Which is tough to pull off, because I immediately fell in love with Devon's wry, occasionally over judgmental tone. Like Lizzy, she tends to call it like she sees it a bit too quickly, but she's also a greatly personable, chatty person who seems like great fun to know. I loved the way her friendships developed and her opinions on people changed. her high school felt like it had very atypical dynamics, which confused me at first until i realized that's just Devon, and that the way she sees people is really unique and both alarming and wonderful. Also, the girl is hysterical. I laughed aloud several times while sitting in that cafe, and not just because I was on my third coffee.
And then there's Ezra. EZRA. Our Darcy figure, All-American football player, resident sports god, and surly jerk face. Or is he? (maybe he's just like baking chocolate) (JKFHSFSKJ feelings).
Dude is intense, awkward, curt, and oh-so-frowny, so very much NOT Devon. Like Lizzy and Darcy, Devon has to reevaluate the way she sees Ezra, but the relationship that grows between them is sweet and precious and makes me all happy and squishy inside. Devon's cousin, Foster, accidentally discovers a talent for kicking that puts him on the football team and in Ezra's world. Ezra and Foster give me feels, and Ezra and Devon give me feels, and HOLY SCHNIKEY DO DEVON AND FOSTER GIVE ME FEELS, I CAN'T. Reading about Ezra and Devon's interactions only made me laugh so much and think of one of my fave tumblr things, Darcy's Inner Struggles:
So yeah, there's football, and there's Jane Austen, and there's romance and family, but this is also the story of Devon figuring out what the hell she's good at and wants to do. Ezra, being recruited by every college with a football team, has his future so thoroughly mapped out for me, stands in total contrast to Devon, who literally wrote her college application essay about cafeteria food. It's definitely a first world problem, as she acknowledges (especially in contrast to Foster's), but definitely one a lot of college bound kids face. SERIOUSLY, WTF DO I DO? What am I good for? Devon is totally lost. It's through observing the agonies of other people and discovering where he own strengths lie.
Come for the adorable romance, stay for the feels from every corner. They sure sacked me in the end. (There's a little bit of football humor for you.)
Present: Bonus Darcy's Inner Struggles (started by Garulus, link to the first here)