Published January 2016
Genres: Young Adult
Note: I was granted an advanced reader's copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my rating or the content of my review.
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.
Mercedes Ayres likes to think of herself as a good samaritan. She helps virgin boys turn their first time with their girlfriends into a memorable and perfect moment by showing them the ropes in the bedroom. All she wants is for those girls to have the first time that she never had. And while she swore to help only 5 of them, Mercy is now way past this number.
Not even her best friend knows about her secret activities, and Mercedes keep ups a good facade by being a regular member of prayer group. However, she doesn’t bank on the fact that she is becoming more and more popular within the male high-school crowd…
What I loved about this book:
- The idea of it…
What I felt needed improvement:
- The moral and ethical part of the
- The fact that the MC does not see what she did wrong
- The trivialisation of promiscuity (this is, after all, a YA novel)
I received Firsts as an ARC via Netgalley and was intrigued by the blurb despite that fact that this was a Young Adult novel. And while the premise was indeed intriguing, I felt like the execution of this book was kind of lacking.
“Everybody assumes I’m still a virgin, so they’re never going to ask to hear my first time story. Which is probably for the best, because I would never tell them, and they would never believe me anyway.”
First, let me start off by saying that I completely felt for Mercedes and understood that she must have been in a bad place, at least emotionally. She’s had her trust robbed from her at the age of thirteen, and has never had supporting parents given that her father left them, and that her mother is more preoccupied with her next botox injections and doodling with the Yoga instructor than being a mother. So basically, Mercedes starts sleeping around. But her “sleeping around” is motivated by two things destined to make her feel less like a sl…t: 1) she does it to regain the control she lacked when her crush raped her when she was only thirteen and 2) she does it to make other girls a favour.
“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.”
However, I really can’t believe that Mercedes fondly believed she was doing the girls at her high school a favour by “teaching” their boyfriends how to make their first time un unforgettable one. I mean, the reason why couples wait to experience their first time together is because it is an intimate act, and not something you can try on a test run with someone else. But then again, she is not the only one to blame: I guess the “boyfriends” are the first to blame for shattering their girlfriend’s trust, however “good” their intentions might have been.
“I wanted, for some desperate reason, for Jillian’s first time to be what mine never was. Jillian was everything I wasn’t – pure, innocent and unaware of how much pain the opposite sex could inflict, physically and emotionally. I wanted to her to stay unaware.”
I also can’t believe that Mercedes truly thought her actions would never really come to light. Especially given the fact that guys that age love to brag about sex. I guess the worst part – the one where I really wanted to shake and slap Mercedes for being so naïve – was when, at some point, the guys who came to see her were obviously no virgins, and although she noticed something “different”, she didn’t really dig further into the issue. In the end, all the control that Mercedes though she had is actually gone, and she is being controlled by all the horny guys that come into her bedroom. She can’t even control herself anymore, because her deal was to help 5 virgins, and she ended up “helping” 13 of them, just because she could and frankly… kind of liked it.
“This is definitely not the work of virgin. Now I know he must be lying, but I’d rather he not admit it at this point. The deed has already been done.”
Of course, it all ends badly – really badly. Think blackmail. Think high-school public-shaming. But then again, how else would this end? And Mercedes was asking for it, because in some occasions, she was quite recklessly obvious – even though one could think that it was her way of crying for help: she is not afraid to flaunt her “one-night stands” in her mother’s face (since they all happen in her bedroom) and to wear indecent clothes to school. But of course, her mother truly doesn’t care, and even goes as far as to somehow encourage her!
What I found particularly disappointing was that it took Mercedes a long time to actually understand the ethical and moral implications of her actions. This was disappointing mainly because she is obviously a very intelligent girl – but maybe she is lacking in emotional intelligence? Her whole mantra was to help people. At the beginning, she really felt proud of helping the first virgins, but then the feeling faded. Yet, she found that feeling of pride again when she started tutoring people in physics. I don’t understand why this wasn’t some kind of eye-opener to her, showing her that there are more rewarding ways to be felt needed.
And while the writing was great and engaging, I believed that the author also didn’t manage to address the issues of this book the right way, because the thing that finally takes the focus off of Mercy’s actions in the end of the book is an event which is just as scandalous, no matter how good the intentions behind it were.
This book is supposed to be Young Adult (from the high-school context and age of the main characters), but it actually really isn’t. It is a very sexual and a very harsh book. It’s definitely far from all the other innocent Young Adult books I’ve read before. I am actually concerned that this goes out to a younger crowd that won’t be able to see through the main issues and may receive the wrong message from this book, especially where the promiscuity and behaviour is concerned. As this is my “feminist” side speaking, because throughout the book, Mercedes’ credo is that guys should be in charge and make their girlfriend’s first time great. I believe we are in a society and age where females can be bold and in charge as well (regarding protection, positions, telling their partner what they do and do not like), no matter whether it is their first time or not.
Anyway, I really did enjoy reading this book because there were a lot of interesting issues touched upon here (an unbalanced home-life, mommy-issues, rape, sex-before-marriage, peer pressure, bullying etc…) but the reason why I did not rate this book any more than 3.5 Stars is because it didn’t feel like the issues were entirely resolved, and the morale of the book was unfortunately not clear enough to me – although I would have loved for it to be.
|All the feels|