BOOK REVIEW: First & Then by Emma MillsFirst & Then by Emma Mills
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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

“When you love something, you can’t be happy all the time, can you? Like, that’s why you love it. It makes you feel all kinds of things, not just happy. It can hurt, it can make you fucking mad, but…it makes you feel something, you know?”

While both underwhelming and absolutely perfect, this was exactly what I needed. I say this because I am having the hardest time lately, between work, home life, and my little fur babies, writing reviews. It’s starting to bother me that I am losing my reviewing time-I find the moments when I write a review so cathartic, and to lose that has been devastating. My time on GR has even dwindled. But I’m not one to stop because it’s simply difficult. So here I am, making time to write a review for a book that not only kept me sane with its understated simplicity, but with it’s all around alluring characters and smooth, albeit not what I expected at all, story-line.

We reached my car, which was a shameful distance from the curb and sticking into the street at a really awkward angle. I couldn’t parallel park to save my life.

I can’t say I fell head over heels for this like I had imagined or hoped I would, but there was just something so charming hidden deep within these pages. I find, many times, that my favorite stories are those that I feel like I could have lived-IE, realistic fiction. It’s not enough to write a cheesy story that plays on the clichés of high school. I like to feel as though I’m trapped in the pages along with all the other characters. And while this one wasn’t perfect, it certainly made me smile, laugh, and extremely happy.

“It’s weird. Sometimes it feels like we’re still the ones in the pictures, and everything that happened after happened to other people. And then sometimes we’re the other people, and the strangers are in the frames.”

Perhaps one of my favorite things about this novel, besides the quiet, brooding male-lead, was the references to Jane Eyre. I’ve never personally read anything by Jane Eyre, but I found it a quirky defining character trait for our MC. ‘If I were Jane, I’d say something like’, ‘If this were a Jane Eyre novel, I’d carry myself’ etc etc. It was cute and funny, and I found that it kept me engaged, for whatever reason. And keep in mind, I didn’t say those lines even closely to how she says them, but I wanted to kind of give you an idea of what she was like.

“I really think you should, you know, give that, uh…soup…a chance.”
“You know. That soup we were talking about. I think you should give it a shot. It’s a really…good recipe. Highly dependable. And obviously delicious.” Her eyes widened. “Not that I would know. Not that I’ve tasted the soup.”
“This is not a flawless metaphor.”

Devon was a girl who is very intelligent, but had no idea where to go with her life or what to do with it. As I sit here and type this, I realize that I kind of resonated with that. I never cared. That’s not to say I was lazy or had an identity crisis or anything, but I certainly never thought much into the future. I wanted to live in the then and now, and thinking about college and what I was going to do with my life scared the shit out of me. But back to Devon. She had a really funny inner-monologue that had me laughing out loud numerous times, and her quips about people were spot on (in my opinion). But then all of a sudden there were two new people in her life, and for once, she was completely wrong about them.

Ezra snorted and then grimaced, and it was quiet for a moment. “So, uh, did you write the ‘inaccessibly handsome’ part?”
“No, I definitely didn’t.” I realized how that sounded and then felt compelled to go on. My shoes suddenly became incredibly interesting. “But, I mean…it’s true.”
“You think I’m handsome?”

Ezra is an all-star running back with a future as bright as the blazing sun. He could go to any college he wants and he runs the field with the grace of an already established professional athlete. His quirk? He’s quiet, broody, and not good with words. I found this to be totally adorable. Devon would try to talk to him and he’d just stare or have so little to say…only to lead to an uncomfortable silence and a stilted, stuttered answer. He tried his best, he really did…He just did not have the gift of gab. And his vulnerability is just so so perfect-UGH! You’ll see. Just..sigh. Devon takes his silence for indifference, but he actually has so much to say. And most importantly…he wants to say it all to her.


He smiled a little as he looked back down at the paper. “What about the ‘inaccessible’ part? Kinda makes me sound like a badly zoned restroom.”
“It’s true, though. A few details here and there aren’t bad. You’re not exactly forthcoming.”
“I told you. I’m not great at talking.”
“You’re talking now.”
He shrugged. “You’re easy to talk to.”
Something fluttered around in my stomach at that. A lone butterfly, agitating me for some reason.

And then there was Foster. He was an unexpected favorite on my part, and Devon didn’t really know what to make of him at times. At first she finds that he is her annoying cousin that got pushed in on them and is an annoying tagalong, but when Ezra takes a kinship and liking to him, putting him under his wing, Devon realizes there’s more to him than meets the eye. His quirk? I’m not sure….but he was an amazing and completely thoughtful character that I wanted to reach into the pages and hug repeatedly.


“Are you drunk?” a voice said.
So it was only temporary peace.
I whipped around and ripped the shower curtain back. There sat Foster, fully clothed, in the empty bathtub.
“What the hell are you doing in here?”
There was a rubber duck balanced delicately on his head. It didn’t move as he spoke. “Just sitting.”
This was one of those moments. Those Foster moments. Early-morning smoothies and the like. I squeezed my eyes shut hard.

This story was sweet, simple, and utterly heart-warming. And while I can’t say it jumped to my absolute favorites, it will certainly be one that I look back on and smile about, fondly wanting to re-read all the adorable quotes that gave me subtle feels from beginning to end. Now, the end will either make you extremely happy and smile really big, or it will leave you feeling robbed and wanting more. I was luckily in the prior category, but it could go either way for any one person. I hope people will give this adorable story a chance. I waited a long time for it, and it was certainly exactly what I needed.


So…this book wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t in your face and it wasn’t full of emotional drama or lots of cheesy falling in love moments and conversations. It was simpler than that. It was about a girl who doesn’t know what she wants. A girl who goes through the motions. A girl who is in love with her best friend. A girl who doesn’t need anything more in her life. Not until Foster…and not until Ezra.

Girl meets boy.
Boy is quiet and backwards.
Boy is star football player.
They fall in love.
Slowly….and then all at once.

I loved this book, but I did want more. Though, it was exactly what I needed for my current mood and glacial pace at posting reviews. I can’t wait to write a review about this one. Ezra was adorably backwards.

Review to come.

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