‘Firsts’ by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

firsts
Uneasy but enjoyable

Published by St. Martin’s Press, January 5th 2016, 320 pages, £7.59

Quick description: Contemporary YA, sexual awakening, teens with issues.

Plot: 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.

3 and a half stars.

This book started off making me feel a little queasy. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the plot and hesitated when I requested an ARC. I think I found it difficult understanding why a young woman (younger than me) would want to put herself in such a- not so much a vulnerable state- but an unlovable and most importantly, an unpleasurable position. I mean, Mercedes is voluntarily offering her body up and receiving no sexual gratification- or is she? Here comes the glitch as we enter some murky waters. To seek out virgin boyfriends and help them become better lovers is not the same an having an active and meaningless sex life. No one can be that charitable?  Then I began to worry what I would feel like if I was the ‘girlfriend’ without a clue. But then I felt like I should embrace reading about all levels of female sexuality (I have strange hobbies).

After you get past the strange set-up Mercedes has going, the book becomes quite enjoyable and addictive. There are a lot of thrilling moments, like if she ever is going to get caught and what happens when her BFF’s BF is getting clued up. We see a lot of horrid flash backs and the disconnected relationship she has with her parents to realise that her issues are running deep. This sounds cliched, but the author has made the revelations quite subtle. Despite knowing its not quite right and vowing to stop- something is driving Mercedes (intended thanks) to agree to another de-flowering night. Is sex a way for her to build up power and independence? Or is it an addictive distraction? Maybe its both. Maybe she doesn’t quite know. But its worth joining her and her classmates on this ‘figuring-stuff-out’ stage.

firsts2

On the whole, Mercedes is a likeable character. She has a very sensitive nature, despite her harsh reality. What I did notice is that, boys are not represented that well, they seem almost evil. Then again some of the girls seemed quite stupid. If you had a vague interest in Easy A then you would like this. This gets right to the heart of double-standards and all that mumbo-jumbo that young girls always have to deal with. It also addresses the pressure young men face- to have control, to be knowledgeable, to be a man. And if these firm gender types are loosened, then the recipients are dubbed as not normal and basically sub-human, if that’s what a slut or a wimp is. So yes, this book will get your attention, get your adrenaline going, will make your blood simmer for a while.

Thanks to SMP for my review copy xx

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After You by Jojo Moyes (Me Before You #2)

afteryou
Not bad

Published by Penguin UK (Michael Joseph), September 2015, 416 pages £9.99.

Quick description: Sequel to Me Before You, the most heart-breaking book ever.

Steam?: Not much, plenty of warmth though.

Plot: Lou Clark has lots of questions. Like how it is she’s ended up working in an airport bar, spending every shift watching other people jet off to new places. Or why the flat she’s owned for a year still doesn’t feel like home. Whether her close-knit family can forgive her for what she did eighteen months ago. And will she ever get over the love of her life. What Lou does know for certain is that something has to change.

Then, one night, it does.

But does the stranger on her doorstep hold the answers Lou is searching for – or just more questions? Close the door and life continues: simple, ordered, safe. Open it and she risks everything. But Lou once made a promise to live. And if she’s going to keep it, she has to invite them in . . .

Let me first say that is a nice book. It was so good to get back into Lou’s life and revisit the Clarks again! They are such a hilarious bunch and always wrap me up with a warm homey feeling. But the sequel cannot compete with the greatness of Me Before You– how it completely worn my heart out- made me laugh, cry, and left its imprint, like many amazing books. I think After You brings a sense of closure and somehow helps you heal from the raw hurt that the first book left in its wake. Its perfect for fans who want a little bit more of Lou and also a way to imagine that Will returns. It will satisfy your curiosity about the Traynors and introduces you to a whole host of unique characters.

So it basically mops up your book hangover, but it wont wipe and wring it into something new.

After You is not a spin-off, so you definitely need to read the first book! Its generally well written and had me fairly hooked till the end. Its a 3-day max read. I liked how the author found a way for Lou to move on. Like many readers, I imagined my own future for her. I thought she could go travelling, do a fashion course and end up opening her own boutique or something. I guess that would always be my ending for it.

We readers always selfishly create our own world for characters existing parallel to the author’s.

What happens in After You is something I would never have thought, but it really works. And it offers a solution of sort for the Traynors as well. There is romance in this, but its nowhere as near the complex, heart-gushing mess Lou had with Will. There is more family love. We see how Lou is able to patch things up with her parents, makes new friends and attempts to let go. There are also strands of mini stories to keep you entertained.

All in all, definitely worth reading if you are on Lou’s team (which of course you are), but don’t big up your expectations.

Thank you Penguin for the review copy xxx