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Monday, January 18, 2016

Review: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
A Young Adult novel
Pages: 320
Genre: Contemporary
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.
*An advanced reader's copy was provided by the publisher for an honest review*

Edgy, raw, and controversial. Debut author Laurie Elizabeth Flynn has readers ringing in the new year with sex. Firsts had me contemplating many things, and most of them were Mercedes' ideals and knowledge of her scheme at hand. One girl. 10+ guys. A helluva lot of sex. What could go wrong...? A whole fucking lot, that's what.

I don't know if giving virgin boys the benefit of the doubt, letting them have the proverbial cake and eat it too, is an acceptable plot structure, but potential readers should not think that this young girl isn't in for a rude awakening. Firsts practically is waiting for you to come up and yell right in the novel's face. It is not realistic in my eyes. If someone was going around doing what Mercedes did in my high school, everyone and their mothers would know every single detail. And while many of the boys know of her gimmick, I find it oddly suspicious that no girls ever find out, especially the girlfriends.

While sex sells, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn pushes the envelope with Firsts in a very gritty, blunt way, but at the same time does nothing to push deeper into issues that appear in the novel: statutory rape, teen pregnancy, sexuality, bullying, commitment/cheating . . . the list most definitely goes on. And while the novel follows the confident Mercedes through her sexual escapades and her hero-complex to give girls a desired, and well-deserved first time in the bedroom by teaching virgin boys the art of sex and the correctness/respectful nature sex, the reader (such as myself) will come to find a multitude of lack in plot and characters. And readers will (hopefully) come to question where in the world are the authority figures and adults in this novel?

Firsts comes across as a daring, edgy, and needed novel in young adult with its progressive attitude on the topic of being sexually active, but the novel covers one too many topics leaving many to be only mentioned rather than explored further. While the topics of bullying, sexuality, rape, teen pregnancy, and sexually active teens are all valuable and need to be talked about, Firsts does not do justice to these sub-plots in the short amount of page length that it has. It is an alright read, one that can be finished in a day, with powerful voices from Mercedes and Faye, but it could have been more if the issues were executed more effectively.

Three targets for trying to be original and not setting the bar high enough