I didn’t want to read this book at first. The first thing I thought when I saw it was, “Oh, great. This is just another poorly-written young adult novel trying to lure young readers in by using sexual content.” I loathe books like these because its sole purpose is to showcase a side of young adults that is selfish, hormone-driven and overly dramatic. While the reviews on it are fairly positive and the cover is more than appealing, I refused to give it a chance. However, after seeing it being featured nearly everywhere online and even getting an offer to review it, I couldn’t help but think that fate was drawing me and this novel together. That’s when I caved and decided to read it. “Firsts” by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn went far beyond your average smutty young adult novel and my own expectations.
The story follows 17-year-old Mercedes Ayres who vows to “help” guys give their girlfriends a good first time by sleeping with them and allowing them to make their mistakes on her. Mercedes didn’t get the kind of first time she wanted and thinks that sleeping with other girls’ boyfriends will save the girls from having to suffer what she went through. Her only criteria is that the guys need to also be virgins.
It’s easy for Mercedes to have this operation since her mother is always away and the guys who she’s slept with have kept tight lips. It’s also easy to hide it from her sanctimonious best friend, Angela, and Mercedes’ long time fling, Zach. However, she didn’t count on Angela’s boyfriend discovering her secret and wanting a turn.
Once Mercedes’ rigid system falls apart and her reputation – including the reputations of the guys she’s “helped” – is sullied, she begins to question the real reason for why she did what she did.
In the beginning, I was disgusted by what Mercedes was doing. I couldn’t believe that anyone would be silly enough to believe that sleeping with other girls’ boyfriends would eventually help those girls. Even after learning about Mercedes’ horrible first sexual encounter, I couldn’t sympathize with her. I was upset with her logic for overcoming a terrible first time and still didn’t feel sorry for her when the whole school ostracized her. What I do admire about Mercedes’ character is that she eventually saw the wrong that she was doing and made serious attempts to correct her behaviour. Even if she had to suffer the consequences.
I don’t feel like I got to know the other characters well enough to truly feel connected to them. Still, I liked reading about Zach’s countless attempts to get Mercedes to be in a relationship with him rather than just have casual sex. I liked the fact that Angela didn’t simply write her friend off and believe her boyfriend’s lies. I also loved that the story was written in the simplest of ways and it leaves clear, positive messages with its readers. My only qualm with this novel is that the guy who took advantage of Mercedes easily got away. Still, I guess that that’s just life sometimes.
On the whole, I think “Firsts” by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn is a novel that reminded me that sometimes it’s good to just take a chance on a book regardless of the blurb or cover. It’s also an exceptional novel that I’m sure to read again and again.
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (January 5, 2016)
Genre: YA Fiction
Completed: December 2015
Source: ARC Copy