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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 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.
**ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review**
I switch out my lamp and stare at the ceiling in the dark, taking a series of shaky breaths. I know that it’s better this way, being the one in control. The one in control calls the shots, and the one in control sets the pace.
Most important of all, the one in control doesn’t get hurt.
I’d be lying if I said this is something that I would have read had I found it on my own…but seeing the type of things being said about it paired with the edgy blurb, this sounded like just what I needed-In a very odd, very different way. This book-this wonderful, magnificent, outside of the box book-shocked me to the core. No, the content is not necessarily new, nor is it something that I think everyone will love. However, I must say, this book took something that is deemed dirty, wrong, depraved, and made it…..okay.
Right, okay, I knew you’d think that. How can a book about a girl propositioning guys in committed relationships to show them the ropes of how he should treat a girl for her ‘first time’ (ie, all the boys are virgins, as are the girls) ever, in any universe, be okay??? Well, I’ll admit it. It made me sick-truly. The thought of this happening to me in high school (it totally could have…you fill in the blanks) makes my stomach drop, my insides curl, makes me see red. But, let’s get real-it didn’t happen. I don’t imagine it happens in real life (does it?? Because if it does…*shudders*). And I don’t think this book was following a trend. So, as with most of the books I read, I flipped my hair over my shoulder, I took a deep breath, and chanted to myself that this is just a work of fiction, to just enjoy it. Yeah, well, I did.
His secret, like those of nine of his fellow seniors, is safe with me. At Milton High, I’m my own statistic. People fail to see the great equalizer, the one thing the band geeks, the drama nerds, the jocks, and the preppies all have in common.
The girl who took their virginity.
In fact…I enjoyed this a little too much. From the moment I picked this up, I was immediately hooked. The writing, the characters, the scenarios-in spite of them being so bizarre-were just, I don’t know, epic. Yeah, yeah, I know, it was a typical high school with typical students and an indisputably flawed narrator. We’ve seen it before, yes? Well…not like this. At least, I don’t think so. She was absolutely deplorable, if you look at the cold hard facts:
-She sleeps with virgin boyfriends
-She takes away that wonderful first time that a guy should experience only with his girl
-She writes in a journal about it (Sigh….come on, girly. You know better)
-She lies to her best friend
-She lies to my beautiful, beautiful man (more on my man later. YES I have yet another man-HUSH)
-She ignores allllll the signs. Alllll of them
-She finally deludes herself by the middle of the book
Do I really need more?
For real. I know this. I know she was totally in the wrong. Deep in my heart, I know it. And yet…I loved her. Yikes, okay, let me back track. I ADORED her. Ahhhh there, that feels better. But here is the crazy thing-I also hated her. I hated how she hurt those girls forever, without them even knowing about it. I hated how blind she was. I hated how she lost herself when she had always wanted it to be a noble cause. I hated how she lied to-shh, leave me alone-Zach, and I hated how she treated Zach. Hell, okay, let’s just talk about the elephant in the room, that way I can focus on more solid facts for the rest of the review. Cool? Might as well, or I’m going to start becoming annoying (START?? I’m well past that).
Zach wanting to see me next Wednesday is almost like Zach asking me on a date, if I were a regular girl wanting a regular relationship.
But I’m not a regular girl. I don’t want to hold hands in the hall at school and slow dance at prom and see a movie with Zach. I don’t want to be the girl he dates senior year and loses interest in when he goes off to college. I want to be just fast enough for Zach to have to run to catch up, because if I stay ahead, I won’t ever have to see his retreating back.
ZACH. Zach. Z-A-C-H. Zacharyyyyy. Now, I know what you’re thinking, for real!! How can a girl who sleeps with a ton of dudes-Taken dudes, might I add-have one set boy she is actually truly into? And I’ll answer, thusly: If you did something that you weren’t proud of, something that used to feel like the right thing but now felt like a dirty, suffocating secret, wouldn’t you feel…lonely? And, more than that, wouldn’t you want to be wanted by someone who (ahem) loves you, who adores you, who, despite your bitchy flaws and dismissive attitude, still wants to spend time with you and wants to treat you right? Well, I imagine that’s how I’d feel. And Zach, while only her ‘Wednesday friend’, is that guy. That guy who, even though he is treated like shit and only kept at an arm’s length, is utterly loyal to you.
“I think I’m in love with you.”
“That’s your orgasm talking,” I say. “You’re not really in love with me.”
“You can’t tell me how I feel,” he says. His voice gets quiet, trails off at the end. “I could be your boyfriend.”
And here is where my real feels (lies, lies, lies, feels were abundant from chapter one) came into play. I’ve met some loyal friends and guys in a lot of books, but I think these friends, this guy, blew the loyalty of other said characters out of the water. I will say this once and only once: Faye and Zach were two of the most loyal literary characters I’ve ever come across-And I don’t take that shit lightly, I assure you.
The loyalty that came into play…it was unreal. It was so out of this world unreal that I started crying (a dainty crier I am not) out of nowhere. To be put in the position they were and to just…ugh. Unconditional love is hard to come by. Standing by your friend, no matter what, is rare-Virtually unheard of. Loyalty can’t be bought, it can only be given freely, and even though I’m doing a horrible job of explaining it, I need to get out what I can. This aspect, if nothing else, made me an unflinching and
loyal fan of this book, and I truly think this is a story I will revisit time and time again-even though the angst threatened to swallow me whole.
I’m so used to planning for guys, dressing and undressing for them and trying to morph myself into their dream girl. I’m so used to it that I don’t really know where that girl ends and the real me begins. I suppose what it comes down to is confidence. I’m confident in that girl, the one who emerges from my walk-in wearing lingerie when I’m done getting ready. But at Faye’s house, I’m not going to be that girl. I’m going to be me.
Whoever that is anymore.
I’m doing a horrible job with this review, aren’t I? My thoughts, though…Guys, I have SO much to say that my head is spinning and I’ll try to start a point in a paragraph and all of a sudden I’m cracking out and interrupting what I was explaining and it just becomes a weird, fangirly mess, and isn’t that the best, though?? Knowing you loved something so much that you can’t possibly get every thought on the page? Well, this is me saying that I’m trying to make this as fluent and coherent as possible, but I’m failing miserably, because I have so much to say and so little capacity to make it right.
The doorbell rings and I sink into a heap on the carpet. With any luck, whoever is down there will just go away.
But I’m just starting to think nothing goes away, no matter how deep you try to bury it.
Let me finish it all with my point, what I’ve been trying to say from the beginning: Mercy is far from what we would call an upstanding citizen…but her heart is in the right place. She wants girls to get the most amazing experience possible, something she never got and something that made her that closed off girl she is today. She really and truly wants to help, to be someone who betters another life behind the scenes. But alas, her methods are wrong and they can only hurt in the long run, so no matter what her ‘rules’ are, someone is eventually going to find out. And it doesn’t matter what you say or even how you say it, you can’t polish a turd:
Hi, I know you don’t know me, but I had sex with your boyfriend and tutored him on how to treat you and how to speak to you in a respectful, kind way, so as to not ruin your romantic night because you’re both so nervous…I hope you don’t mind? I had the best intentions!
Boundaries will be pushed, you will feel utterly uncomfortable, and you likely will be on the edge of your seat for most of the novel, but it was the best feeling. I really hope people will open their mind and read about this wonderful set of flawed characters. My heart was in my throat, my stomach in knots, my hands over my mouth and eyes after 30% on, but not once did I dislike the feeling. To evoke such strong emotion from me is noteworthy, because it doesn’t happen often. In fact, I often avoid books like this because I just want to be happy-but this, this made me happy even with all the turmoil. My heart was crushed even as it was slowly being stitched up from the previous fracture, causing an endless loop of soul-crushing, mind-blowing, and heart-wrenching moments all swirling around in a tornado of feels, making my head spin and my body rebel any chance of sleep. But any author that can make me compare them to my beloved Courtney Summers is okay in my book, and I only hope her next novel is just as compelling-I know I will undoubtedly be watching and waiting for it.
I loved this book with all my heart-even as every increasing page ripped my heart to shreds a little more. And here’s the thing-I felt like I was reading a Courtney Summers novel…and that is the most surprising, most wonderful thing about this book-BESIDES ZACH, OF COURSE.
And LOYALTY. Mother fucking loyalty. My heart. Oh Gahd, it hurts.
SUCH a win.
Full review to come-I can’t WAIT to write this one tonight!!!! Eeps.