Monday, November 16, 2015

UppercaseBox Book Review: First & Then

As I just got the shipping notification that my November UppercaseBox is on the way, it's probably about time I write up my thoughts on the October title.  Having finished the book I can say with all honesty: this is still not a book I would have picked out for myself.

The only character I could relate to from the start was Ezra, and not because I was ever a sports prodigy, but because he is the quiet outsider, new to the school and finding himself in the middle of everyone else's lives.  As someone who never went to the same school more than two years running until college, I found it easy to identify with someone who is the new kid senior year, plopped into the middle of friendships that have existed for, literally, a decade.

The narrator, Dev, is a mess, but thankfully she grows up a lot in the space of a few hundred pages and a couple of months.  She's hopeless and heartsick, with no actual direction or goals and nothing remotely like the oomph needed to go anywhere after high school or amount to much of anything.  At the start of the book she has literally no goals, other than a sarcastic interest in majoring in 'advanced breakfast with a minor in cable television'.

She is the center of a social circle comprised of near friends and close acquaintances, including:
Foster - the cousin she hasn't seen for years, who her parents are fostering while his mom deals with addiction and the loss of his father.  Dev's relationship with Foster grows from annoyed, affronted and put out, to fiercely protective.  I didn't like Dev much until she thought Foster might be moving back home - her reaction to that possibility, and how she handled the reality, made me proud to know her.

Cas - the best friend and unwitting love interest, the subject of her puppy love crush for, and I mean this, years.  Dev learns years pining for him, waiting for him to realize she was always the one, until she realizes she's worth seeking out, not being conveniently found.

Ezra - the new guy - cool, dashing, remote, and famous.  Ezra shows up with all kinds of baggage - the emotional kind he keeps private and the public kind that comes from being the new outsider who takes over the school football team.  His motives are in question before he passes his first ball and his reticence only makes the whispers louder and more fervent.

Lindsay - beautiful, popular, the apple of Cas' eye, Lindsay may be the greatest 'a-ha' moment Dev has - finally breaking out of her self-centered little bubble Dev not only sees Lindsay for who she is, but begins to see herself through Lindsay's eyes.

For the technical review - the writing is crisp and clean - at some times laugh out loud funny and at others, heart-stoppingly dramatic.  Unlike Romeo & Juliet, the main characters live, which is basically setting any work up for a possible sequel, but I don't know that I would want one.  The characters are so freshly drawn, with an ending that is equal parts melancholy and hopeful, and I wonder if a sequel would keep that newness about them or if, in maturing, they would develop harsher edges.

For the Uppercase review - this was my first UppercaseBox and I did not know what to expect from the Uppercase experience; and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The discussions, videos and author input were well placed throughout the book and delightful additions to the reading experience.

4 stars - a solid four stars; although this is not a book I will describe with jazz hands to every passerby, it is a book I can whole-heartedly recommend to more than one reader in my life and at the end of the day, I am glad I read it.

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