14 Going on 40: Our Review of FIRSTS

So, most statistics reveal that upwards of 40% of Young Adult literature is read by adult women. As an avid YA reader and writer, I’m definitely represented by that statistic. But it also means that teens still represent the majority of YA reader (YAY!). On that note, I’ve decided to do a series joint reviews here on my blog called “14 Going on 40” where I’ll post along with my totally amazing daughter, Evelyn. My girl is a genuine teen, a middle school student and an award-winning writer herself. I don’t plan on revising or censuring her reviews in anyway.


We’re starting with FIRSTS, a debut novel by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn. The book follows Mercedes Ayres, the daughter of a single, often absentee mother, who had a terrible experience when she lost her virginity at the age of thirteen. Determined that other girls should have it better, she agrees to be the “first” of several boys at her school, tutoring them in how to please their girlfriends. Things get complicated when Mercedes develops feelings for her friend Zach and when Charlie, her BFF’s boyfriend, comes knocking at her door.

Buy FIRSTS here.


I completely loved this book. What I most admire is the character development of Mercedes. Here is a protagonist that really ought to be unlikeable. Yet even as she’s making mistakes and somewhat questionable life choices, I found myself rooting for Mercedes and drawn to her struggle to find real love, friendship and acceptance. Mercedes is a real, flesh and blood character with strengths and weaknesses. She has friends as well as enemies. The pacing of the book is excellent and FIRSTS is a smooth read from cover to cover. It is also very effective at showing the benefits and importance of female friendships, as Mercedes’ relationships with Faye and Angela make up come of the book’s most compelling material.

If I had one complaint about the book, it would have to be that some of the male characters, especially Charlie, don’t ever seem to get their comeuppance. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but there’s some pretty bad behavior here on the part the boys and it came across as somewhat unsatisfying that there is little in the way of consequences for them.

But I definitely recommend this book. I think it gives readers a safe mechanism to explore the relationship between sex and love and to understand that these things can and do exists separate from each other.


The novel by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, FIRSTS, is a coming of age novel about Mercedes Ayres, a girl who has given herself to the cause of teaching virgins how to have sex with their boyfriends. The novel centralizes around ideas of finding yourself, and learning how to love, as evidenced by the relationship between the main character and her male sidekick, Zach. My only criticism of the book is its lack of attention to the serious matters that arise with the “firsts.” Many times, the sex is brought on by blackmail, or is perceived in a way that does not seem consensual. Aside from that, however, the book is a very good debut for Flynn, and I look forward to see what she does next.