It seems somewhat fitting to have the first book I review in 2016 be Firsts, by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn (because of the title and because it was released this week). Sometimes, as a writer, I have a hard time understanding what high concept contemporary means – but when I read the description for this book I knew I’d found one. Teenage girl has sex with only virgins to help them get awkward first times out of the way before they sleep with their girlfriends. It’s unique. And it’s gripping. And it left me with a lot a lot of questions, both before and after reading it. To give a bit more context, the main character is seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres. Her father’s left, her mother dates lots of men and is very critical of Mercedes’s appearance, and she is a science rockstar who’s MIT bound. She doesn’t believe in god, but goes to prayer group with her best friend every week. And she has a very big secret (see the above paragraph). One she’s keeping in hopes that other girls will get the perfect first time that she didn’t get to have. As with all good novels, drama ensues.
Back to those questions. Before reading the book I thought the story would go in one of two directions. It could be a funny, quirky, light-hearted romp. Or it could be a serious book about a girl with a lot of issues, because, frankly, it some seem like a character who treats sex and relationships this way might have a lot of problems. It turns out Firsts is kind of both. And my main question after finishing the book is if the two tones mash up well with in the story. I’m not saying they don’t…but I’m also not sure that they do.
I did really enjoy reading this one, and sped through it. It has way more sex than any other YA book I’ve read, but as an avid and early reader of romance novels that didn’t bug me. Some times it was positive, other times less so. Overall, I think it’s a story with a plot that will keep you turning pages and a rare exploration of sexuality, sexual orientation, and the way our parents and past experiences can influence both.