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.
First of all, a forewarning… this book is heavy on American football. I don’t think you need to know a LOT about football to understand what is going on, but when it gets into plays and such, and you don’t know anything… you will probably start skimming. If, on the other hand, you are like me and grew up watching football and love it, but you also have a love of Jane Austen — welcome, you are in the right place!
This book is billed as Friday Night Lights meets Pride & Prejudice. It’s not a direct re-telling, but the main character (Devon Tennyson) definitely references Austen moments several times to keep you in tune and also to show her love of Austen.
For some reason, I loved Devon’s character. Okay, I know why… because she had a lot of moments that to a small extent echoed my own high school days and what I witnessed of others as well. She was a little awkward, but not too awkward. She is well-liked and smart, but also has no idea what she wants to do with her life. College isn’t really in her vision until she physically goes to a university and suddenly everything clicks into place. And she has also wasted away years in love with her best friend, blissfully unaware that he and everyone else knows it. She also has a tendency to misjudge people, but simultaneously knows when she is being mean and wants to be a better person.
I also really liked her cousin, Foster. He is just about as quirky as freshmen come, and he has a great story all of his own within the book. I did worry about him several times in the book in terms of health, but I think I’ve seen too many medical dramas and automatically think zebras when you should think horses (thanks a lot Grey’s Anatomy).
But really the best of the characters is Ezra, who is (spoiler alert) akin to Mr. Darcy. So he is broody and handsome and inaccessible. He’s also an All-American football player and on the team with her best friend, Cas, who she’s had a crush on forever. I really liked the way that the author wrote Ezra and built his back story.
Much like Jane’s inspirational novel, First & Then has a really slow-burn romance. And while there is a happy ending, it is quite abrupt, and the last chapter made me think “Really? That’s how you’re ending this?” Which bumps it down to about a 3 or 3.5 out of 5 for me. But I get it. I do get why it ended there. It’s not really her fault that I wanted a little more to sum things up, so I left the rating at a 4 because I did really like it.
If I have one other criticism it is that it tied in a lot of important issues without saying much about them, but I think I actually preferred it that way… it made it seem more true to life. Everyone seems to have friends with issues all around them, from high school onward, and you don’t always know all the details or the right way to help or if you should help or just let them deal with it themselves. That’s what this felt like.
In the end, it is a really light and breezy read with an innocent, non-steamy, first love type romance. Great for a rainy (or snowy) afternoon read.