Saturday, January 9, 2016

Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

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.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I have to preface this review with suitable age-range, as this is a Young Adult novel. This is a difficult task, and I believe that it's up to the parent to decide whether or not their child is the appropriate age. Note: the context of the novel is based solely around sex, and all the ramifications of the act, so that in and of itself would lend to a 17+ age-range. Some acts are described, but never in detail – just enough to propel the reader in the direction the author is heading. But looking back into my own childhood, I realize there were more than a few morals and lessons hidden in the pages that would have helped me out at say age 13/14. Parents: if your child reached puberty earlier than their peers, or are emotionally mature, I'd rate the book 14+.

Firsts captured me from word-one until the very end, and I look forward to whatever else this author writes in the future. I was hooked with the easy flow of first-person. Many prefer third-person narration, but with this stream of consciousness storytelling, it was a must to fully connect with the narrator.

Instead of the reader being hit with the whys of every character in the story, Mercedes was the focus – everything was her view of the world and its inner-workings. Not that there wasn't a strong cast of side characters with proper development. But this was Mercedes' story – a compelling character who would have been lessened if she hadn't been the sole narrator.

Is Mercedes a role model? Many parents would say no. But, as a child I dubbed a woman-child, I understand what it means to have your body be more mature than your heart or mind, and this leads to being taken advantage.

Without giving away the plot, Mercedes tries to right a wrong for all the girls in her school, while gaining her power back. But at the same time, two wrongs never make a right, and that's the lesson she learns during the journey she takes the reader on.

There is absolutely NO insta-anything. In fact, I had no idea who Mercedes' love interest would be/become until after the 75% mark, and for that I thank the author. That's what I enjoyed about Firsts, not the hard-hitting, provocative premise that will have many up in arms, but that it was not predicable. Yes, there were a few things that were not true to life, but I'll leave those to the critical reviews. I didn't know where Ms. Flynn was headed with the story, assuming it would go in one direction but it never did, and that's what entertained me. As a writer, that is not somewhere I often find myself. Reading is generally work for me, so surprising me is like someone gave me a gift.

My heart ached for Mercedes, and I understood her. I felt the author did a good job regarding consequences, and when Mercedes wanted to take all the blame, her friends made sure she realized it took two to tango with the devil.

A few reviews ago, I tore into an author who was against the No means No stance, stating that it should only be 'yes, means yes.' I had issues with this over the high probability of miscommunication, lack of personal responsibility, silencing your voice, saying yes but later wishing you could say no, and the fact that your partner is not a mind-reader. Firsts: In this circumstance, I will agree with yes means yes. Simply because anyone under the age of consent can say no, but none of them have the ability say yes & that is why I think this book, that many parents would probably reject their children reading, would be a life lesson.

Education is not erasing childhoods; it's protecting the innocent from coercion, as well as ensuring they themselves don't become the predator. No means No. Yes means Yes. Everyone should be taught the shades of gray in between.

Laurie Elizabeth Flynn went to school for journalism and later worked as a model, a job that took her overseas to Tokyo, Athens, and Paris. She lives in London, Ontario, with her husband and her Chihuahua. Firsts is her first novel.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn to read and review.

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