St Martin's Griffin
January 6, 2016
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon
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.Firsts was one of those books that I loved the description of, but where I was also a little nervous about just how it was all going to go. There was a lot that could have gone wrong with Firsts - but ti didn't.
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.
Mercedes character and her 'extracurricular activities' did push what I was comfortable with more than I expected. The summary and even the cover had me prepared, almost unbelievably, for a lighter read. Mercedes is a complicated character with her own reasons for doing what she does. I was surprised just how much reasoning there was behind her decision, how her past, her family and her relationships all played into it. Author Laurie Elizabeth Flynn did a brilliant job with Mercedes.
Some of what Mercedes does - with who, why, when, how, etc - did make me wish she wouldn't. Because of what is 'acceptable' or how I feared it would end for her, or both.
The reason, I think, Firsts worked so well is that it avoids the usual 'virgin' and 'slut' archetypes. In and of itself, a character choosing to have sex, or not to have sex or to have sex with numerous people, or to eschew relationships does not make them good or bad. It is more of the 'why' they are (or are not) doing it that decides if it's 'good' or not.
That's not to say that everyone in the book sees it that way. Of course, in high school, there are going to be judgments made about someone who sleeps with other girls' boyfriends. Even as Mercedes does all she can to keep her secret a secret, you know something is going to happen.
Mercedes and Firsts have stories you may not be completely okay with, but there are real reasons there and, in the end, characters you can't help but feel for. The author and the novel don't make sweeping judgments on the characters or their actions, but still let the other characters react in realistic, judge-y ways. It all works.
(Also, Faye made me think of Eliza Dushku's character in Bring It On.)
egalley read thanks to publisher and NetGalley, for review