review: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

firsts {Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Okay. So. Here’s the thing.

1) There is a character in this book who should just go die in a fire.
2) The honest depictions of sexuality in teenagerdom were refreshing and honest.
3) The slut shaming that goes on is really, really tough to read.
4) Zach is the cutiest cutie pie that was ever adorable.

Okay, so that’s four things.

Firsts was good, but not *great*. I could feel while reading that with careful editing, the book would have risen to another level, so I do think some pruning would be advisable. The book is about three chapters too long.

Firsts is about Mercedes, a girl with a rather odd hobby. Mercedes de-virginizes guys so that their girlfriends will have good first times. You see, Mercedes had a terrible experience when she first had sex, so she’s trying to make sure that doesn’t happen to other girls… yeah, it’s as bizarre as it sounds. She’s also having no-obligation Wednesday sex with her lab partner, hiding her secret life from her psychotically religious best friend (who made me roll my eyes on more than one occasion) and flirting with her new buddy Faye, who rolls into town with all the finesse of a Mack Truck.

As you can imagine, none of this ends well, and Mercedes is pressured into having sex on more than occasion, which I found very upsetting. Not to mention there are implicit threats of rape from one character. There really isn’t much exploration of the illegality of this and I think it’s a missed opportunity. He’s quite possibly one of the biggest douchebags in all of YA history, and I dearly wish the book had ended with a better comeuppance.

Regardless, I enjoyed this one. It’s wonderful to have a YA novel that doesn’t sugarcoat sex, or assume teenagers aren’t having it / obsessed with it. Likable writing – and like I said before, I do think that the book would bump up another star with editing – it’s way too long.

A note as well: I’ve heard Mercedes called a lot of things by reviewers (nice slut shaming, btw) but in my opinion, she’s a lot like a regular teenager. Fairly self-centered, confused, lots of feelings down below, not a lot of smarts. I know I was a total headcase at that age. Mercedes is typical, and that’s why she’s largely unlikeable – because teenagers are assholes, in case you’ve forgotten.

review: Murder in Paradise by Francine Pascal {Sweet Valley High Super Thriller #6}

412141 {Source: GoodReads.com}

This is an awesomely cracked-out volume in SVH history.

Elizabeth, Jessica, Mrs. Wakefield, Enid, Lila and Mrs. Fowler all head to a spa for a “retreat”. While there, they notice that absolutely everyone on staff is stunningly beautiful. All but the actual owner of the spa, a Dr. Mueller, who is thoroughly creepy, looks vaguely like a frog, calls Jess and Liz her “beauties” and fawns over Alice Wakefield like a lesbian who hasn’t gotten any in about a dozen years.

Dr. Mueller ends up taking Enid beneath her wing, because boo hoo End isn’t as pretty as her friends and her Mom couldn’t make the trip because GASP she had to WORK (the nerve!) and Elizabeth is about as sympathetic about this as you’d imagine.

“Oh Enid, shut up, you’re adequate enough and you have a cute body… I guess. Sorry though, no time to chat, I have to go cheat on Todd with this guy I just met!” Liz trills, flipping her perfectly silky blond hair over one tanned, sculpted shoulder.

Yes, the twins are as insufferable as ever and Lila isn’t much better, interrupting what seems like a gorgeously relaxing mud bath to chase after some asshole she thinks is a celebrity… or something. It’s a sub-plot not worthy of Lila’s usual devilish glee over other people’s misfortune. She should be cackling about Enid’s ugliness, not passing up the chance to be wrapped in hot towels with her lover, I mean best friend, Jessica. (I can’t be the only person who thought Lila and Jessica were secret power lesbians, can I?)

Eventually, the truth is revealed! Tatiana Mueller is bat-shit crazy and she wants to steal Alice’s face so she can be beautiful at last! MUAH HA HA HA HA…

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Seriously satisfying romp, with enough of Liz being a total dick to please any Wakefield hater.

review: Swimming Sweet Arrow by Maureen Gibbon

swimmingsweetarrow{source: GoodReads.com}

God, I loved this book when I first read it. Still do, as a matter of fact.

Yeah, yeah to the pearl-clutchers who call it “vile” and “pornographic” (you must be SO much fun to hang out with!) just because the main character is a girl who actually enjoys sex! GASP HORROR SHOCK.

The tale of Vangie growing up and eventually, growing apart from those she once held dear, really hit my heart. It’s one of the more realistic depictions of sex – in all its messiness – that I’ve ever read, and the dirty fun of the characters, and their intimate, raw lives, just never gets boring.

It strikes close to the bone with so much of the story – the friends who realize they really don’t know each other anymore, the many many variations of sex, the rape, the pain, the awful squalid chicken farm, and the reality that becoming an adult sometimes means letting go of childish things.

Highly recommended – mainly, for its perfect characterization of Vangie, and for an author who isn’t afraid to make her main character sexual. Love.

{buy Swimming Sweet Arrow on amazon.ca . amazon.com . amazon.co.uk}