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First & Then by Emma Mills Book Review

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.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself. 

“Friday Night Lights meets Pride and Prejudice” instantly sold me when I read the synopsis for First & Then. I mean, what’s not to like about those two things? The idea of them combined was intriguing to say the least. First & Then turned out to be a solid contemporary, that despite not having too much to the plot, managed to have relatable themes and strong messages prevail. Plus, the numerous Jane Austen references definitely didn’t hurt either ;)

Devon is an ordinary person starting out her senior year of high school, with no strong motivation towards college or how to make herself stand out as extraordinary. Having completed my own college applications in this past year, so many aspects of the process she went through struck true to me. Colleges want you to be extraordinary and stand out, even for someone who leads a relatively normal life. How do you make your life sound like more than it actually is? As that struggle plays out over the course of the novel, Devon gets further out of her comfort zone-due to two main catalysts, football captain Ezra and her cousin Foster. 

Devon wasn’t entirely the most likable to me. Throughout the novel, she tended to be judgmental and irrational. However, in a sense, that made her more relatable. While I definitely didn’t agree with everything she thought or did, it definitely added a sense of realism to the novel. As aforementioned, there were numerous Jane Austen references. As a fan of Jane Austen, several made me laugh and put a new perspective on various situations. The author’s use of these allusions was possibly my favorite aspect of First & Then. However, I had mixed feelings about the cast of characters as a whole. With the exception of Ezra and Foster, I didn’t like a majority of the prominent side characters- Cas, Lindsey, and Marabelle. Therefore, I didn’t care much for their stories or aspects of the plot involving them. A relatively short novel, there’s not too much that actually takes place over the course of the story. I was a bit bored with the plot at times, but I did really enjoy the message of getting outside your comfort zone- as cliche as that sounds.

Ezra, the serious and silent football captain, was a refreshing change from most other YA love interests. Although the things he said seemed a bit too good to be true and unrealistic at times (I just can’t really see a teenage guy talking that way), he was undeniably sweet and had a great heart. However, I was hoping for more interaction between him and Devon, as the romance wasn’t as prominent or developed as I hoped it would be. On the other hand, Devon’s cousin Foster was such a unique character. He comes to live with Devon and her family due to his mother’s drug addiction. While definitely eccentric, I thought the way he looked out for Devon was sweet and I loved how he would point blank state the obvious at times. His lack of tact ensured that the characters heard exactly what they needed to at times.

First & Then, while not my favorite contemporary, is still a great story that features both a love interest who stands apart from other YA ones and several allusions that will appeal to any fan of Jane Austen. I’d give First & Then 3.5 out of 5 flowers.


  1. Sorry you couldn't connect with Devon. It is hard when you can't stand some of the things they do and think. Wonderful honest review!

  2. Aw. I kinda like the P & P Friday Night Lights plot elements in this book. Sorry you didn't quite like it though.

    1. I did really enjoy both of those aspects! I thought First and Then was a good read, just not my favorite :)


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