Publisher Website - Raincoast Books/Macmillan
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 320 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received for honest review from the publisher**
Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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.We've all heard the saying that there are three sides to every story - theirs, yours and the truth. This can generally be applied to any situation. It should come as no surprise that a lot of gossip is just one version of the story. Firsts takes the idea of THAT girl - the one you probably heard about in highschool - and makes you reconsider everything you think you know about her.
Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee 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 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.
This is a book that is brutally honest. It wears it's honesty loudly and with pride. Every single aspect of this novel feels unflinchingly authentic. It takes you into the life of a girl who isn't perfect. A character that some will not relate to or even like at first. This fact is exactly why this novel is important. As you read Mercedes' story, as you get to see the cracks in her armour, and the reason behind her actions, it becomes impossible for your viewpoint not to shift. She becomes something other than THAT girl. She becomes EVERY girl. That is the magic of this book. Ms Flynn turns Mercedes into someone you cannot help but see in those around you, and that makes her story resonate all the more.
Mercedes makes some bad choices. She's a complex, messy, true to life character who does not always make the same choices you would make. She's a girl who makes mistakes, but everything about this books screams at us that those mistakes should not define her worth. Sex is often tied to the perceived worth of someone, particularly for females, and this novel pushes against that notion. The mistake is not her having sex, but her making decisions that don't make her happy. Mercedes' choices are her choices, and she is entitled to them. She struggles with how she feels about what she does, and that makes all the difference. You, as a reader, ache for her. She is hurting herself, even if she doesn't fully recognize it at first. There will be those who will judge Mercedes for her actions, but if you judge anything be it the pain she is causing herself, and the reason she accepts it.
One of the most heartbreaking parts of Mercedes' story is the fact that none of the guys have their reputation impacted by their choices. Double standards do exist, and this is subtly (and masterfully) woven into the story. Mercedes is the one that has whispers following her, insulting things written about her, and has to wade through the fallout. It's enraging and maddening and absolutely what would happen in real life.
Firsts is the type of book that belongs in highschool English classes. It's the type of book you wish you would have been able to read in highschool. It offers an important, vital message and includes more than enough prompts for meaningful discussions. Mercedes' story will linger with you long after you've finished and it's the type of book that you immediately want to force others to read. This book will make you look at THAT girl in a completely different light, and if this is the only thing it accomplishes it can be considered a success.