First – Laurie Elizabeth Flynn (14+)

Warming: This book made me cry and gave me a book hangover!

I’m guessing there will be plenty of people that won’t like (or empathise) with the protagonist Mercy, but I did. I think you either get her or you don’t. But by the end of “Firsts”, if you don’t understand her story, your heart is made of stone. #justsaying

Of course I fell in book-love with Zach Sutton. Cute, funny, sexy and persistent (in a non-stalkerish kind of way). But really it’s the two main friendships that resonated deeply with me: between Mercy and Angela (the leader of the prayer group), and between Mercy and Faye (new to the high school with a dark back story); and the themes that Laurie Elizabeth Flynn explores: accepting people for who they really are, forgiveness, and trust.

On the surface “Firsts” seems like a book about a girl (Mercy) who wants to school virgin-boys into how to make their girlfriends’ first time amazing; the secret getting out; and Mercy’s life ruined by angry girls. But really there’s a lot more to it. Like several novels I’ve read this year, “Firsts” is about consequences; being strong in the face of adversity; abusive relationships; good relationships; and that although having sex for the first time in the your late teens is fine, choosing to wait for marriage is totally fine too.

I feel aggrieved that so many people are seeing Mercy as a “homewrecker”. That’s exactly how the girlfriends of the boys Mercy has “helped” see her, but they didn’t have all the information. WE DO! I don’t condone cheating but that’s not how I, Mercy, or the boys she “helps” see the situation. I don’t want to give anything away but I really wish people would open their minds and engage their limbic system and allow their empathy to help interpret this novel (and many others).

Mercy is judged not only for who she has slept with, but how many people she has. There’s a lot of hype around not “slut-shaming” but I still think the same bar isn’t set for men as women. As long as the sex is safe, legal and consensual (and not filling a void), then frankly it’s nobody’s business. The number of people you have had sex with does not offer an insight into anyone’s character; it does not prove if you’re kind of not; and it is no way to judge another person.

Mercy has rather confused views on sex. It’s very positive when you see her with Zach but a negative view of why she had sex with the other boys. She’s confused by her own motives, both conscious and subconscious. She’s confused by her first experience.

I must obviously alert you to there being sex in “Firsts”, and assault/drinking are also mentioned. HOWEVER I think all subjects are covered in a non-graphic accessible fashion and the themes of this book not only make it a good read but also a thought provoking one. Highly Recommended!

– L-J