Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Gift from Family
TYPE OF AUSTENESQUE NOVEL: Austen-Inspired, Young Adult
SETTING: Temple Sterling, Florida – modern day (fictitious, smallish town)
- Dev: a spectacularly ordinary high school senior that doesn’t have her future figured out
- Foster: Dev’s 14 year old cousin who has come from California to live with them
- Cas: Dev’s outgoing, football playing best friend whom she has unrequited feelings for
- Ezra: All-American football star of the school, most people think he is an arrogant jerk
Dev’s senior year is thrown for the loop a little bit when her pesky younger cousin comes to live with her family full-time. Nothing like being a senior and having to bring your weird freshman cousin with you everywhere… While Dev is trying to sort out what college to go to and how to write a good enough essay to get in, Foster finds himself attracting the notice of school’s star football player, Ezra Lynley. A senior Dev has written him off as a arrogant jerk. But Dev soon discovers that there is more to both Foster and Ezra than she first believed.
WHAT I LOVED:
- Accurate and Authentic: I felt the characters, events, and narrative voice of this story captured the essence of typical high school existence. The nightmare of having to play sports in gym class, the hype around the school’s star athletes, the struggle to figure out what you want to do for college…your major… the rest of your life – Ms. Mills illustrated all these feelings so well. Sometimes when author’s portray life in high school, I wonder “What high school did they go to? No one talks/acts that way.” That wasn’t true for this story, it felt plausibly realistic to me.
- An Ordinary Heroine: I loved our heroine, Dev, and immediately found her endearing. She isn’t a sparkling wit or overflowing with talent and beauty, but she is a Jane Austen lover with some romantic notions…. 😉 I loved her irreverent and sarcastic humor, and how she wasn’t afraid to stand up to Ezra when she thought he was out of line. But at the same time I loved that she was vulnerable and had some fears and insecurities. She wasn’t a paragon – she was accessible, likable, and honest.
- Jane Austen Connections: Jane Austen and football, who would’ve thought? First and Then is described as “Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights.” And while we do see a bit of Darcy in Ezra (with his lack of social skills and reserved manner) and Lizzy in Dev (with her humorous prejudgements of her classmates), this story isn’t exactly a modern-day retelling Pride and Prejudice. It is its own story with some nods to Jane Austen. I loved the nods, they never felt forced and were delightful little surprises, especially the ones at the end! *swoon*
- Emotionally Invested and Enthralled: I liked how much I grew to care about the characters in this story and what happened to them. This was definitely a mature YA story that touched on some important themes about family and understanding yourself, and I was touched by the relationships that developed through out, not just between Dev and Ezra, but also with Foster as well. I felt so connected and invested in this story that I couldn’t stop thinking about it for quite some time after finishing it.
WHAT I WASN’T TOO FOND OF:
- That there isn’t a sequel! I would so love more of Dev, Foster, and Ezra and their world!
NOTE: There is a moderate amount of profanity used in this story.
Even though I’m not a fan of football or Friday Night Lights, this fresh and compelling story swept me up with its high school realities, humor, and heart. For Jane Austen fans who enjoy Austenesque stories that take place in different environments or Janeites who love to see subtle echoes of Jane Austen cleverly worked into a plot, First and Then is a brilliant choice!