Review: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn + Excerpt

E-ARC: 320 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Source of my copy: publisher
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.

I'm Torn
I'm torn whether to rate Firsts higher because of the strong emotions it evoked in me while I was reading it or lower because of the strong conflicting emotions it evoked in me...

Mercedes Ayres was a senior in high school and a chemistry whiz. But, she mostly keeps to herself and doesn't really let anyone in, not even her best friend Angela nor Zach, the boy she meets every Wednesday at lunch to have sex with. Unbeknownst to Angela and Zach, Mercedes had been regularly inviting boys--they must be virgins and must be in a serious relationship--up to her bedroom to have sex with her. But, she's not doing it for the pleasure of having sex with them and taking their virginity. She does it for a more altruistic reason: she suffers through their fumbling first-time awkwardness so that she could guide and teach them how to make their girlfriend's first time perfect.

At the start of the novel, she just had sex with virgin #10 and swears to herself that he's the last one. She's already slept with 12 different guys--the 10 virgins, plus Luke (the guy who took her virginity) and Zach. That's a big number, she thought. But, as more virgins approach her with their sob story about needing her help in order to make their girlfriend's first time perfect, Mercedes just couldn't say no. Until, that is, her best friend Angela's boyfriend approached her to help him. And when her perfect system of making sure no one finds out about her revolving bedroom door falls apart, Mercedes needed to find a way to salvage her reputation as well as face some issues she has long been ignoring to figure out where her heart really belongs.

Mercedes and the Other Characters
Oh, man. Where to start with Mercedes? For most of the novel, I vacillated between wanting to slap some sense into her (Girl, what, what, what are you doing?!) and wanting to give her a hug. She's one of the most frustrating main character I've read ever. She really thought her system in making sure the boys keep their mouth shut about her works. But, we're talking about horny high school guys here. Even the ones with serious girlfriends are going to talk to their friends--if not to brag, then to hook their friend up with Mercedes so she can also help them. I'm not condemning her for the sex and the number of guys she slept with, but I am condemning her for being so friggin' gullible about the guys who approached her after virgin #10. Those guys obviously had other agendas, but Mercedes chose to ignore all the warning signs and what her gut was telling her: those guys may have other intentions, other agendas. For a smart girl, Mercedes was very dense.

Okay, fine, so her home life sucks with a self-centered, negligent mom (I imagined her as one of those women in Real Housewives of [insert city] based on what I've seen in commercials--I could be completely off since I don't watch those shows) and an absent dad. We also got hints throughout that she may have been in an unhealthy relationship with her first boyfriend, Luke. She also didn't really have anyone to confide in because her closest friend Angela was uber-religious and believes in wanting until marriage to have sex, and she pushes potential relationships away. But, I can only excuse her denseness and gullibility so much on her personal issues, because it's common sense: you have sex with numerous guys in the same high school, it's going to get out sooner or later.

But don't get me wrong, I liked Mercedes. She made terrible decisions and I was frustrated with her and could rant about her all day long, but I couldn't not like her. I felt for her and rooted for her success and wanted her to stand up to those hypocritical girls and guys at her school when they were calling her a slut and a whore--because SHE WASN'T!! I was so angry for her when she got all the hate when sex involved two people. Why weren't the guys getting the same hate as she?

Speaking of Mercedes pushing away potential relationships, I felt so sorry for Zach. The way Mercedes treated him over and over again--the way she was constantly pushing him away and her constantly rejecting him? She was so mean to him! If I were Zach, I would've walked away long time ago and never looked back. I felt like he deserved someone better--someone nicer than Mercedes.

My favorite character in the novel, though, was Faye. She's a strong, independent, tell-it-how-it-is person and I just love how she called out Mercedes on some of her BS while still standing by her side when everything fell apart. She's what Mercedes could've been if Mercedes had some common sense. She and Mercedes kind of had this attraction thing going and I was wondered if the author was going to take the story in that direction, but she didn't. That would've been an interesting turn in the story.

Writing Style/Pacing
I really enjoyed the author's writing style and voice. While the writing was nothing out of the ordinary, it was very readable and consumable. The story flowed nicely with really no dull moments. The build up was tense--I was just waiting for every thing to fall apart for Mercedes, which was inevitable. Reading about Mercedes getting closer and closer to social suicide was very stressful for me as a reader. Mercedes's character caused some big, conflicting emotions in me and any book that makes me feel strong emotions (whether positive or negative) while reading it is a winner to me because that means that the author got me to care about the story and characters. Firsts succeed very in that aspect.

Also, if you're worried about all the sex. Don't be--Firsts was not written like a new adult or a romance novel. There were no long descriptions about the act and author kept pretty much kept it succinct and behind-closed-doors.

Final Thoughts
Truth be told, Firsts took me by surprise. I expected I was going to like it, but I didn't expect it to rile me up or to to leave me uncomfortable yet drawn in by the story, frustrated yet empathetic. Basically, this book had a lot of heart and I got a lot more out of it than I was expecting. I applaud the author for penning a strong debut novel. I look forward to reading more by her.

After writing this review and thinking about my reading journey with Firsts, I'm giving it

Firsts is already out in stores!

If you can't see the excerpt, read it here.

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