First & Then
As much as I love reading adult nonfiction, sometimes after
awhile it leaves me craving something lighter. When I saw Emma Mills'
First & Then on the new books shelves in the Orono Public Library
children's wing, it was interest at first sight. It didn't get to be
love until the first page. Protagonist Devon is staring at a
motivational poster of lions. One is obviously the alpha male.
"Clearly, this was supposed to inspire something in me. I
wasn't quite sure what. Run faster. Kill more gazelles. Be better
than those riffraff lions hanging at the periphery."
As she starts her senior year in high school, Devon is much less
motivated than Mrs. Wentworth, founder and leader of the Road-to-
College Club, would like her to be. She shares her parents'
assumption that she should attend college after graduation. She wants
to continue her education to prevent them from murdering her. But she
hasn't put much thought into it. Basically she feels too average and
insignificant to get accepted at an institution of higher learning.
"What if, deep down, you were just one of those background lions?"
Devon isn't going to get to just glide through her senior year,
however. Two guys who normally would not inhabit the same teen social
universe will change her life drastically. One is the ultra geeky (as
in Future Science Revolutionaries of America Club) freshman cousin who
has gone from a distant relative she saw every few years to living in
her home. The other is the football super star whose picture is in
every toilet stall in her school.
What, in my mind, really makes First &Then sing is the evolution
of Devon's very distinctive voice. As the book starts she's snappy,
wise cracking, keeping others at a distance. As the story unfolds,
chinks start to appear in her psychic armor. By the time you close
the book you wish it went on for about a couple hundred more pages so
you can see how she continues to grow.
First & Then is Mills' debut novel. I can't wait to see what
she comes up with next.
On a personal note, I had the most WONDERFUL day imaginable Saturday.
I spent it in Portland with my younger daughter, Katie, her boyfriend,
Jacob, and their new incredibly fluffy, sweet, affectionate white and
orange cat, Archie. We spent time at my beloved ocean. I found a
perfect clam shell as long as my hand. We did thrift shopping. We
had lunch at Red Robin and they made supper. I was just so happy to
be with them. My round trip bus ticket was my Christmas present from
Katie and it was the perfect gift.
A great big shout out goes out to Katie, Jacob, and Archie with all my
Julia Emily Hathaway
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