Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Published on January 5, 2016
Genres: Young Adult
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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.
*Possible triggers regarding sexual assault
This is a challenging review for me to write. There are a lot of things I enjoyed about this story but it was a hard read for several reasons. Firsts is centered around a high school senior who is promiscuous, due largely in part to a lack of parental love. As a mother, I FEEL for this girl and want to hug her forever. It was hard to read about a young girl with low self-worth but it was rewarding to see her evolution. There are some elements of sexual abuse but not rape. This will not be an easy read for some.
Mercedes Ayres clearly needs some love and she eventually finds it in the form of true friendship. Unfortunately for her, the path to happiness is dark and treacherous. Her story is a lesson in caring about yourself, loving yourself, and never giving up.
In regards to the writing, I would have preferred more showing and less telling but that could be chalked up to teenage angst and the complaining that typically ensues from it. What really distracted me is that there are a lot of words. I know that sounds ridiculous but I just felt like things could have been…more efficient. Intense moments felt bogged down by too many nuances being discussed. I really wanted to stay in the moment and maintain that pressing need to finish the story. I found myself only reading the dialogue in parts because I just wanted to maintain my adrenaline high.
Two other issues I had are an unresolved storyline and only a whisper of what happened to one of the main characters. Mercedes’s dad was noticeably absent for most of her life but then he is brought back in during present time. Was his resurgence important to the story? I don’t think so. He is made out to be an important factor but then we never hear what happens with his storyline. I also feel that too little was said about the “villain” in the end. I wanted to know how he paid for his actions and it was just quickly touched on. I wanted to see a little more retribution.
The story overall, minus the extra nuances, was compelling. It really picks up in the last third or so where things start to snowball. The final third kept me up late to finish, which is rare (this old lady likes to sleep). The suspense was building full-steam and I just couldn’t wait to find out what was going to go down.
I would recommend this book to someone looking for something different and absorbing. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it does make the reader think and feel. I was angry, frustrated, and I think one of my eyes leaked a little. This book definitely got me thinking and I still can’t get Mercedes off of my mind.
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