Expected Publication: October 13th, 2015 by Henry Holt and co.
*I received an eARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected the opinions stated below.
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.
In my opinion, First & Then isn't a hugely powerful story, nor is it a hugely heartwarming one (though my poor little heart may have felt a little squeezed sometimes). But it's a quick read, it's enjoyable, it's quiet, it's got heart. Primarily in the relationship that Devon shares with her cousin, Foster.
Foster's a bit of a weird kid. He's suddenly been thrown into their lives because he can no longer live with his own family. Devon, seventeen, doesn't particularly want to be in a PE class filled with freshmen, but it's even harder when she sees that fourteen year old Foster is there, too. At first, Devon just wants Foster to be normal and fit in because she thinks he'll be happier. Over the course of the book, she really learns about Foster. That there's nothing wrong with him the way he is. That he's actually a pretty cool kid - a pretty cool kid who's basically a brother now. And what I really loved? He's just Foster. And he's happy to be that way, confident in who he is.
And Foster's got a secret - he can kick. He can kick a field goal better than anyone on the varsity football team. (I don't think he actually did field goals. Whatever he did got one extra point, not three, but IT'S BEEN A VERY LONG TIME SINCE I'VE BEEN TO A FOOTBALL GAME SO WE'RE GOING TO ROLL WITH IT. Maybe he does field goals too? I honestly couldn't tell you.) And of course, who better to help him out than the quiet and brooding star player of the team?
Ezra and Devon had me grinning widely quite often. Ezra is not a man of many words, and so their sometimes awkward interactions made me feel weirdly giddy. There was so much realistic hesitance and uncertainty there, and they were definitely more on the slow burn side. Which gave their slightly uneasy friendship more time develop, and okay basically I LOVED IT.
And Devon? She's got voice. It's a wonderful and unique narration to read from. Yes, she's one of those characters who discusses how average/ordinary she is. But I had no problem with it, because she was so similar to how I was senior year. Unsure of what colleges to even apply to, feeling like she had absolutely nothing to put on her applications or resume. But she grows in that way that I think only high school seniors can and sort of comes into her own.
And also finally grows out of her longtime crush on Cas, the best friend who didn't really seem much like a best friend at all for most of the book. He makes a pretty big asshole move at one point, and I really wish there had been more resolution with this. I think Devon deserved that.
tl;dr: Devon's voice is so, so good that I would probably read about paint drying from her POV. (That's a little drastic. But you get the idea.) Ezra and Devon were CUTE CUTE CUTE and both a little awkward in the best way possible, and fourteen year old Foster is the kind of kid I wish I could have been. 4 stars.