Published by Henry Holt and Co. on October 13th, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
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.
Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights. I mean, did you really need anything more than that to be like OH MAN I WANT THIS NOW? I sure didn’t. Though the positive reviews from fellow fluff-loving friends certainly didn’t hurt. First & Then was exactly what I expected – a delight.
Now, first off, you shouldn’t expect this to be a Pride and Prejudice retelling, because it definitely is not. I kind of made that mistake at the start, and so I was looking here and there trying to draw comparisons between the characters, but it’s not a retelling. There are similar themes though, because Ezra is quite like Darcy. He’s not very approachable, and he may come off as arrogant and self-centered at first, but he actually has a heart of gold and is deeply protective of the people he cares about. Devon obviously doesn’t quite see that at first, and after their first couple of interactions she’s not very impressed by him. Hence the link to Pride and Prejudice. There’s not a day in my life where I won’t fall for these relationship dynamics.
So, yes, the shipping is real. I loved picking up on the little moments as the two kind of started feeling things for each other. I loved seeing them gradually become close friends, with Ezra letting his guard down, and Devon’s curiosity and protectiveness steadily growing. There were quite a few butterfly-feeling moments, and the end of the book just had me aww-ing out loud. (The confession? Pure gold.) I did not so much love the arguably convoluted but perhaps realistic romantic drama that came in the latter half of the book, which seriously was looking like an elaborate love square at a certain point. But like all romantic comedies (or even dramas) it turned out okay in the end. (But seriously I could live without misunderstandings like this keeping a ship down because it’s kind of really cliché.)
First & Then also happens to capture so many nostalgic feelings. I feel like Mills accurately depicted the whole high school setting, and it just felt so real. I loved seeing the football games, the parties, the classroom dynamics… Devon was pretty relatable to me when it came to that. And I loved how much of a Jane Austen nerd she was. She would think all the time about how a certain character in one of Jane’s novels would react to a situation or say what they’re feeling, and I had all of the giggles.
And despite this being a really short book, there was a heartfelt message about family too. Foster comes into Devon’s family, and he’s, well, lame – is the first word that comes to mind. He just experiences the world around him a bit differently, and that leaves Devon both scared that he’s going to get bullied and resentful that she has to look out for him. But honestly, Foster turns out to be a super lovable character that everyone is drawn to. He’s so pure and open-hearted, and by the end of the book I just wanted to give him a huge hug.