Welcome to Reader vs. Reader. Two librarians who have read the same book will discuss it critically. They may agree, agree on certain points, or completely disagree. RvR will challenge your reading comfort zone and dig deeply into the text to find potential problems or subtle brilliance. And maybe both.
In February, Andrea, Pam and guest reader, Faythe, all read First & Then by Emma Mills
Devon Tennyson wouldn't change a thing. She's happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon's cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn't want them first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.
The Quick Reactions:
|Pam:For being an awesome hero(ine)’s quest with a brown girl and awesome world-building and romance and also lots of Dante references.
||Andrea: I’m more on thumbs up. I liked the nod to Jane Austen and Pride & Prejudice, but it did muddle the plot a bit. There were several characters I loved and wish all the focused had stayed on them.
Snippet of our conversation (Warning: spoilers everywhere!):
Andrea: I liked that it was a nod to P&P. There was a lot of Austen influences without it being too obvious.
Faythe: It look me a long time to get the Pride and Prejudice vibe because she was mean. Lizzy wasn’t never outright mean to anyone.
Pam: Yes! And Ezra was quiet but not openly hostile.
Andrea: I agree it’s a very, very loose P&P feel, more of the Pride vs Prejudice type attitudes, but that’s about where it ended.
Pam: Yep. I admit that P&P is my favorite book of all time so I had unrealistic expectations.
Faythe: P&P is my all time favorite too! I have to admit that I was taken out of the book at times as I tried to figure out who Wickham was.
Pam: Me too!!! I’m wondering if we’re supposed to think it is Cas but he is way more Willoughby than Wickham.
Andrea: I think you have to not think of this book as a P&P retelling. I could sense the vibe, but mainly ignored it because it didn’t have the typical retelling feel. Usually, you can tell who is who off the back, but I didn’t think you could with this one, which is why I’m reluctant to say it’s an actual retelling.
Faythe: Yes! Maybe it was all the Austens together? I can see it. There’s Emma, Darcy, Willoughby…
Pam: Yeah I guess it depends on how far you take it. Some things were obvious homages and other aspects were unique.
Faythe: The structure of the book was awkward. There was no resolution at the end of the book. We only got the romance resolution. We never heard about her personal statement, her backups, her future.
Andrea: Yeah, I agree with Faythe about the structure. There were also a lot of thrown around characters and storylines that felt out of place.
Pam: Yep! With so much of the beginning devoted to college apps, the end makes it sound like as long as you find The One, nbd.
Andrea: I did kind of take it as she would just get in, I also think it doesn’t help where the book stopped? It’s homecoming, so that’s winter right?
Pam: Fall. Like end of Sept
Faythe: I really do think this book only took place over six weeks. So much was just left open because it was such a short amount of time. Lots of loose ends. The adoption. College. Marabelle. Ezra’s dad. Lindsay.
Pam: The first week of school is before Labor Day weekend. So it fits in that time period. But it’s rather a disservice to leave so many open ends when they could have been resolved in a satisfying way
Andrea: I agree, but I do feel like it was implied. Like the college they were talking about being roomies, so it was implied she’d get in. The adoption thing was basically done, even though not spelled out, and how they acted in the hospital showed they were a family. I think we could have really used an epilogue, though.
Pam: Can we talk about Cas? What was his deal? All this time he knew that Devon loved him but … did nothing? It’s almost like he let people laugh at her desperation. Not cool.
Andrea: Ugh, I disliked Cas a lot. I also didn’t understand him wanting to admit she liked him? Like…did he just want to shut her down?
Faythe: Cas was like Logan from Gilmore Girls. Just like of charming and smarmy. I don’t even know the purpose of Cas at this point.
Pam: Me either, he felt like a placeholder. Also I think that the opposite gender BFF trope has really been run into the ground.
Andrea: I think he was there to add tension in a love triangle way, but it didn’t work. It just took the focus away from Ezra, Foster, and Devon and made the story seem muddled.
Faythe: I keep thinking of how we were robbed of a great story with Devon and Foster and then Foster and Ezra. I wanted more of Foster and Ezra. I loved them both.
Pam: Agree. I loved loved the character of Foster though. Ezra was so nice to him. I liked that relationship a lot
Andrea: Yes, I wish the focus had been on those three. Those three are why loved the book, especially Foster. His storyline was the best part, to be honest. He was so vulnerable and open and….break my heart.
Pam: If she wrote a companion novel just about Foster I’d be all over that.
Faythe: I loved Ezra because I love Darcy types, but I would’ve been okay without the romance.
Andrea: I’m a sucker for romance, so I kind of liked it, but I agree it wasn’t necessary.
Faythe: I love romance too and gobbled up the book, but the next day I thought, “what a second” and all my doubts came in.
Pam: See I am super duper picky about romance and this didn’t bother me, but I didn’t love it. Or even like the romance much. Especially when she talks about kissing his face off.
Faythe: I never say this, but there could’ve been another 50 to 100 pages and I would’ve been okay with it.
Pam: Oh yes. I think she needed to go back and cut out all the BS with Cas and some of the others and focus on Foster, Ezra, and Devon. Ezra’s letter came so late in the book–we could have spent so much more time on him changing his attitude
Faythe: And it doesn’t seem Ezra ever changed his mind. According to him, he was hooked from day one.
Andrea: I think that’s another glaring point on how the P&P reference didn’t quite work.
Pam: The one thing that really really bugged me was Devon’s constant use of “prostitot”
Faythe: Yes! prostitot was awful.
Andrea: The PT bothered me as well, but I was glad she got called out on it. I think the author did a good job at showing she was judging on what she say, not who they were.
Pam Well ladies , It seems like we all really liked certain characters but wished the story were more fleshed out?
Faythe: Yes. We wanted more stories!!
Andrea: 100% Agree.
Stay tuned next month when we’ll duke it out over Up to This Point by Jennifer Longo