Children’s Book Reviews
Children's Book Reviews: Firsts
Publish May 27, 2016
Laurie Elizabeth Flynn’s debut, Firsts, is an edgy, heart-breaking novel about teen sexuality and relationships. Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres offers a unique service to the virgin male students of her high school: she gives them some practical experience in bed and provides basic instruction in how to give their girlfriends the perfect first time she never had. Mercy doesn’t consider what she does cheating. She sees herself as a philanthropist and truly believes she’s helping her classmates. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees, and when Mercy’s sexual activities are exposed, she finds herself a pariah. The only friends who stick by her are new girl Faye and Mercy’s chemistry partner, Zach. Publicly shamed and ostracized, Mercy must figure out how she is going to cope with the final months before graduation. Firsts is a young adult novel that does not shy away from confronting the complexities of the relationship between teens and sex, particularly the possibility that sex can be used to exert power over a situation or person. Although Mercy starts out believing she’s in charge of what happens in her bedroom, as more boys request her special assistance, it doesn’t take long for her to realize she is rapidly losing control. Mercy’s sexual escapades may raise more than a few readers’ eyebrows, but Mercy herself is a nuanced, sympathetic narrator. Perhaps most importantly, the novel delivers a critique of slut-shaming and the double standards of sexual behaviour for men and women when Faye observes that it isn’t fair that Mercy takes the blame for everything that has happened, while all the boyfriends seem to face few, if any, consequences. Readers may be left wondering how none of the adults in this novel ever seem to figure out what is happening, but overall Firsts is an interesting, compassionate look at the pressures and contradictory messages around sex in heterosexual teen relationships.
Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
Thomas Dunne Books
ISBN 13: 978-1-250-07586-3
Roseanne Gauthier is the Youth Services Librarian for the Prince Edward Island (PEI) Public Library Service, and is PEI's 2017 award-winning 'Champion of Reading'. She has worked in the Faculties of Education at both the University of Prince Edward Island and Mount Saint Vincent University and spent two amazing years as the Children’s Librarian at the Confederation Centre Public Library. She holds an MLIS from Dalhousie University, and an MA from the University of Waterloo. Roseanne lives in Charlottetown, PEI with her husband, their adorable daughter, and two tuxedo cats.
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