First & Then by Emma Mills
Publication Date: October 13, 2015
Publisher: Macmillan (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)
Format: Hardcover // 267 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars
WARNING: YOU WILL FALL IN LOVE WITH THIS BOOK.
If you've never watched an episode of Friday Night Lights or read a book by Jane Austen, do not fret. Don't think about the fact that football plays a big part in First & Then, or that you may be dealing with a love triangle. Yes, these are all things that could possibly push you away from this story. But that is why I'm here to tell you to READ IT ANYWAY.
First & Then follows Devon Tennyson, a girl who believes herself to be average and has no idea what she wants in life. She's crushing hard on her best friend, Cas, but is pretty cool with not telling him and just taking each day as it comes. Her life is thrown into a loop when her cousin, Foster, comes to live with her family. Even worse — Dev is stuck in the same gym class as Foster, along with Ezra, the obnoxious quarterback.
I really wasn't prepared for how emotional I'd be, or how strongly I'd understand Devon. When I was in high school, I felt the same as she did — unspectacular. Devon doesn't have any goals, and she isn't passionate about anything in particular (except Jane Austen's novels? Haha.) As much as I enjoy books about characters who are above and beyond the norm, I love that First & Then highlights how anyone with an ordinary life can have extraordinary moments.
The moment I started reading about Foster and his quirky self, I immediately pictured Farkle from Girl Meets World, hahaha. I love how his relationship with Devon develops from babysitter to real friendship. He's forced into Devon's life, and she hesitates to accept him at first, but the way they're placed into different situations together is realistic and done very well.
And then we have Ezra. Everyone assumes he's cocky and on his high horse, but there is so much more about him that no one knows about. He doesn't say much, which looks terrible on him, so everyone has these assumptions. But as time goes on, we break through his walls, little by little. I like that he's true to his character throughout the entire story — nothing changes who he is. He doesn't suddenly become outspoken or overly confident.
My only complaint about First & Then is about the relationships left in "limbo." There are multiple characters who get into a bit of conflict with one another and things go unresolved. I think it's mostly my need to know, but why introduce something that you just leave hanging? (This didn't keep me away from enjoying the story at all, I just wanted more from every single character!)
If you're looking for a sweet contemporary romance, you need to read this one. It is the perfect amount of both cute and serious, and it's less than 300 pages so you can zip through it on the weekend.