Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Published: January 5th 2016
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In the vein of Easy A, an honest and refreshing young adult novel about sex, love, and high school.
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 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 own 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 received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
When I first heard about Firsts in early June 2015 I thought it sounded like a book that could have potential and something that would interest me. What I didn’t expect was a smart book about teens, sex, love and friendship and what they all mean separately and as a whole. And let me tell you, this first time author nailed it.
Firsts is a story about Mercedes, a high school senior that is going places. She is smart and funny and sarcastic. But Mercedes as a secret; she has an open door policy for the virgins of Milton High. She allows them to have their first time with her so their girlfriends can have the first time Mercedes never got to have. To her her system is fool proof…until it isn’t. All of a sudden Mercedes’ world that she so carefully crafted started to crumble and people she didn’t realize were so important to her have the potential to get hurt in the cross fire.
It’s hard to really put into words what was so great about this book. There was a lot happening in Mercy’s life between her absent parents, her past, her secret with the virgins, her self-loathing and her trying to keep people that loved her at an arm’s length. To the naked eye Mercy seemed like someone that had it all together. Smart, funny, and helpful. But she didn’t. Not really. She was basically lost. So completely lost and messed up by the past that she used sex to make herself feel like she was in charge of her life. But she never was. She was haunted by things that had happened to her and terrified to be vulnerable to people that were available. Honestly I just wanted to hug her and tell her she didn’t have to do it that way.
The other thing that I loved about this book is that Mercedes had AMAZING people around her (her parents aside). Zach, Angela and her new friend Faye couldn’t have been any different from each other. Zach was the sweet boy that liked Mercy for Mercy, Angela the religious girl that saw the good in people, and Faye the blunt in your face kind that made Mercy look in the mirror a time or two. Each of these people were needed in Mercy’s life in a way she never could have imagined until it is possible she could lose one or all of them. They were the voice in her head even if she didn’t even know it.
I could go on and on and tell you why you should read this story and everything it does in terms of discussing sex and how sexual activity and cheating is treated differently in boys and girls. I could tell you about all the things that happen in this book. But instead I’m just going to leave it here and just tell you to read it. It isn’t a perfect story. There are a couple of things I wish were dealt with in the end, but I think it is an important story and one that should be read.
Tonight, I’m doing Evan Brown’s girlfriend a favor. An awkward, sweaty, fumbling favor. Melanie, or whatever her name is, owes me big time.
Except she’ll never know it.
“You’re not staying over,” I say, fastening the robe around my waist. “You’ll get there. Girls care less about that than you think. Especially in the beginning. You can work up to it together.”
He grins. He looks different, more handsome somehow. In the softer light, his pimples aren’t as evident and his jawline seems more pronounced. One day, I think Evan Brown could even be a heartbreaker.
But that day isn’t today.
I glance at the clock on my nightstand. Eleven p.m. on a Tues- day. “It’s a school night, Evan. Time for you to go. Your mother will wonder where you are.” Or I assume she would. Most mothers do. Not mine, of course.
His grin turns into a frown. “Do I, you know, owe you some- thing? I don’t know how this works . . .” His voice trails off.
“You don’t owe me anything. Just be good to her, okay? Re- member everything we talked about.”
I know he will. He even took notes. Open her car door for her. Bring her flowers, not something generic like roses but her actual favorite flowers. Have dinner reservations in advance, not necessarily somewhere fancy but somewhere meaningful, like where you had your first kiss or where you realized you loved her. Kiss her, not just on her lips but in unexpected places. On the nape of her neck. On her forehead. On her wrist. Push her hair behind her ears gently. Take a picture. She’ll want to remember the night.
I swallow against a lump that has risen up suddenly in my throat. It’s not that Evan is different—he’s a nice guy, a kid who loves his girlfriend and wants to please her. Maybe I’m the one who’s different. Maybe this speech is starting to feel too familiar. I told myself five favors for five deserving virgins. Five was the line I drew in the sand, and I trampled over it like it wasn’t even there. Evan is the tenth, and ten is a line I can’t just trample past.
But I’m certainly not going to get into this with Evan, so I put on a fake smile. I gesture around the room at the chaise lounge and walk-in closet and floor-to-ceiling shoe rack. “Besides, I really don’t need your money. Spend it on Melody.”
He pulls his boxers and pants back on. His movements are more measured, not the bumbling, terrified movements of the Evan Brown who entered my bedroom an hour ago. Even his voice seems deeper, like he came here a boy and is leaving as a man. I suppose that’s not far from the truth. I allow myself a little smile, a real one this time. It’s easy to reaffirm what I do. What happened to Evan in my bedroom will change him, make him into a more consider- ate lover, even a better boyfriend. Moments like these are what made that line in the sand so easy to obliterate.
Moments like these, I could see an eleventh, even though I promised myself that’s not going to happen. I’m starting the second half of senior year with all of my good karma already under my belt.
“I don’t know where you came from, but you saved my life, Mercy. I mean, Mercedes. I don’t know what I would’ve done with- out you.”
“You would’ve ripped five condoms by accident, and you might’ve drowned the girl in saliva. But now, you’re going to nail it. Literally.”
He tugs his shirt over his head. “When Gus told me how you helped him, I didn’t believe it. But he was right—you’re an angel.” He pauses. “But can I ask you—”
I cut him off midsentence. “No, you can’t. Don’t spoil it.” “But you didn’t even let me finish,” he protests.
“Oh, I let you finish,” I say. “The one thing you can do for me is not ask me any questions.”
He nods. “Fair enough.” “Goodnight, Evan,” I say.
“Goodnight, Mercy. Uh, Mercedes.” He gets to my bedroom door and pauses with his hand on the doorknob.
“This won’t be awkward at school tomorrow, will it?” he says, looking back at me.
“Of course not,” I say, folding my arms over my chest. “It’s not going to be awkward at all, because what happened in this room becomes just a figment of your imagination the second you walk out that door.”
He gives me a tight-lipped smile and pulls the door shut after him. I can see his shoes underneath, can tell he’s lingering there, wondering if he said too much or not enough, not entirely convinced that his secret is safe with me.
But he has nothing to worry about. His secret, like those of nine of his fellow seniors, is safe with me. At Milton High, I’m my own statistic. People fail to see the great equalizer, the one thing the band geeks, the drama nerds, the jocks, and the preppies all have in common.
The girl who took their virginity.
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