Mini Reviews: First & Then – Emma Mills, Ask Me How I Got Here – Christine Heppermann

first & thenDevon 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. 

Rating: 4/5

I was looking for something feel-good to read one Friday night – and was mightily impressed with my decision to pick up this book. The perfect tonic when you’re in search of something sweet, but not overly fluffy. I loved the slow-burn relationship between Ezra and Devon. I enjoyed the development of the sibling relationship between Devon and her cousin Foster who comes to live with them, and the way Ezra takes him under his wing. While Devon was not the most likeable character initially – she’s incredibly judgemental, especially with regards to the way she treated other girls (referring to the pretty younger ones as ‘prosti-tots’), I liked how she came to realise that these young women have been nothing but nice to her – they are not her competition, but friendly (and friends) in their own right. She learns to break out of her self-imposed isolation, and let other people into her world. Finally, the secondary characters were scene-stealing, superb in their own right.

***

ask me how I got hereAddie has always known what she was running toward. In cross-country, in life, in love. Until she and her boyfriend—her sensitive, good-guy boyfriend—are careless one night and she ends up pregnant. Addie makes the difficult choice to have an abortion. And after that—even though she knows it was the right decision for her—nothing is the same anymore. She doesn’t want anyone besides her parents and her boyfriend to know what happened; she doesn’t want to run cross-country; she can’t bring herself to be excited about anything. Until she reconnects with Juliana, a former teammate who’s going through her own dark places. Once again, Christine Heppermann writes with an unflinching honesty and a deep sensitivity about the complexities of being a teenager, being a woman. Her free-verse poems are moving, provocative, and often full of wry humor and a sharp wit. Like Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins, Christine Heppermann is a voice to turn to for the truth of difficult subjects. Ask Me How I Got Here is a literary exploration of sexuality, religion, and self-discovery.

Rating: 3/5

This book is written in free verse poetry, and so is a very quick read. Unfortunately, I think that’s where the content falls down – there’s just not enough detail to pack the emotional punch that the author was going for. I mean, the premise is certainly intriguing, and some of the poetry is wonderfully brutal in its skewering of abortion politics and relationships, among other things:

She wished they could stay this way forever, just two happy characters in a happy, funny story. But they couldn’t because, unfortunately, Minnesota abortion law requires parental consent. 

But I just felt very detached from Addie, overall. I also am a bit iffy about the fact that Addie’s life/personality takes a complete 180 degrees after her abortion – while I totally get that it’s a massive decision to make, and depression is a totally viable reaction – we just have so much scare-mongering as it is around the whole process, and I guess I was hoping for something that didn’t feed so much into the stereotypes. Still a thought-provoking read though.

ARC received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from uncorrected proof and may differ from final publication.

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8 thoughts on “Mini Reviews: First & Then – Emma Mills, Ask Me How I Got Here – Christine Heppermann

  1. I was quite impressed with First and Then as well. And the fact that Devon’s judgemental attitude didn’t deter me from fully enjoying it. I like her realization in the end that girls need to stick together no matter what. 😀

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  2. First & Then sound like a wonderful and comforting read, I am glad to hear that the MC revises her opinion of the side characters. It’s way too easy to villainize side female characters.

    I don’t like free verse novels very much, so I think I would have issues with Ask Me How I Got Here XD

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  3. I did hear lots of praise for First & Then… And something not too fluffy is not unappealing, so I’m adding it to my list. I can never resist a book in which the secondary characters end up stealing the scene 🙂

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