First and Then

Heads up! This will be the first time we’ll be doing a paired review. Look out for Kelvin’s review of this very same book after my review!

Book Stats:

  • First and Then
  • Emma Mills
  • Henry Holt and Co.
  • October 13, 2015
  • Jane: 2 stars
  • Kelvin: 2 stars

two-stars

Summary:

“Devon Tennyson wouldn’t change a thing. She’s happy 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, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive jock, Ezra, right where she doesn’t want them–first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.”

Review:

Well, I didn’t hate this book… but I’m not sure I have much to say other than eh.

Disappointing, since I love a good Pride and Prejudice retelling (although, let’s be honest. No one can live up to Austen. And I’m not just saying that because we share the same first name).

Let’s take it step by step, shall we?

The characters

I have to say– Emma Mills has remarkable talent for creating likeable characters that have no depth. What do I mean by this? Mills’ cast was a bunch of charming stereotypes. Likable, yes (I’ll admit, these characters kind of grew on me when in most cases, no depth= out the window for me). But still, could you be a little more original?

We have “I have no idea who I am, why am I so unoriginal” Devon (in my opinion, the weakest character– an insult to Elizabeth Bennet);  “I am an endearing oddball” Foster; “I am a standoffish hottie everyone hates unless they get to know me” Ezra; “Everyone loves me but I’m actually a jerk” Cas; and “I am involved in every extracurricular imaginable” Rachel, to name a few.

These characters had their share of endearing moments, but when it came down to it, their characters extend not much beyond the stereotypes I outlined above. Mills tries to develop them, I can tell, but the transformations either come off as sudden and awkward or not really a transformation at all.

That being said, I really liked what she did with Foster. Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice was a character that can only be described as icky, and I loved how Mills crafted Foster into one of the most likeable characters in the book. Perhaps, Mills did not intend these two characters to be counterparts, but I like to think that Foster is a sort of redemption for the awful Mr. Collins.

The Plot

The plot of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is lovely (one of the many reason why it is my all-time-favorite), but it is also complex. And while in Pride and Prejudice, this complexity of plot added to the story, in First and Then, I felt like Mills was trying to do too much.  Not only did she try to adapt all parts of the original storyline, but she also tried to deal with a wide array of other issues. And for me, it didn’t work. In fact, I think if she had just focused on doing only couple things with the original story, First and Then would have turned out fifty times better, with a compelling storyline and poly-faceted characters.

Dialogue

Some of the dialogue was weird in parts. I can’t exactly pinpoint why. It was just weird.

The Romance

Thank you, Mills, for the build of romance. I cannot stand a book where the magic happens on virtually the first page.

BUT I just wanted to point out that this book’s very own character says “Is it too much to ask for a little more time spent on the I-love-you-and-want-to-be-with-you part?”

And what do you know? This book spends almost  no time on the I-love-you-and-want-to-be-with-you part. Seriously? I get that First and Never is supposed to imitate Pride and Prejudice, but I find it slightly hypocritical to point out a weakness and then follow the same path.

—-

If you are looking for a fluff book to just read, I wouldn’t completely shy away from this book. But if you are seeking a real zinger here, don’t be surprised if this disappoints.

Similar Reads: I refuse to say Pride and Prejudice

Kelvin’s Review:

Never have I felt more “meh” about a book than with First and Then. There’s nothing wrong really with the writing or the story or even the characters. It just felt so bland, I didn’t feel anything towards it and I couldn’t get really get into the book. Like I got near the end and I just wanted the book to be over already, that’s about how into the book I was.

One big problem I had with this book was that I wasn’t sure what issue it was really trying to address. It opened up with Dev figuring out what she wants to do in college and throughout the book we do get to see a college visit and a discussion with her friends but it’s left with so much open interpretation at the end. I thought that the book as going to turn out like from her experiences, she would be able to write a killer essay and get into her dream school, but nothing of the sort happened. We also had glimpses of drunk driving and teen pregnancy, both of which I felt were used to advance our opinion of the characters: Dev, Cas, and Foster for sticking with the pregnant girl. None of these were fully explored and just left me wanting for more, and not in the good way either.

Our main characters were likeable at times and still I didn’t feel anything for them. Dev, in my opinion, was way too passive. I know this is supposed to complement her wallflower nature, but if we are to see her evolve throughout the book, I want her to have more fire in her than just being snarky. She also has a fair amount of self loathing and though at first it was okay, again I wanted to see her grow more confident in herself and when she didn’t, it felt overbearing. Ezra and Cas were also just okay characters. They’re annoying at times in that they’re way too into themselves at times yet on the whole they weren’t so bad to make me feel angry nor so caring to make me like them. Foster grew on me after a while and the best part about him is that he shows a wisdom that’s beyond his age. He also probably contributed to the best part of the book, the portrayal of Dev’s warming up towards Foster and her eventual love for him. And finally, the limited amount of side characters made the book feel like it wasn’t really set in a school. I appreciate that Mills tried to give them each their own personalities and I’ll admit that I liked Jordan because he was so charismatic. But we didn’t get to see much outside of these characters and they felt isolated.

I guess I’m getting a “so what” feeling after reading it, like what is the point of this story. The romance was barely there, the characters were not captivating, and there were inconsistencies in the plot that left me confused about what was supposed to have happened. Overall, it’s just disappointing; not awful or anything, just boring and below my expectations

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