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Monday, March 19, 2012

The First Time by Various Authors

The First Time by Cyn Balog, Lauren Bjorkman, Leigh Brescia, Jennifer Brown, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Janet Gurtler, Teri Hall, Cheryl Renee Herbsman, Stacey Jay, Heidi R Kling, C. Lee McKenzie, Saundra Mitchell, Jenny Moss, Jackson Pearce, Shani Petroff, Carrie Ryan, Sydney Salter, Kurtis Scaletta, Jon Skovron, Kristina Springer, Rhonda Stapleton, Charity Tahmaseb, Jessica Verday, J.A. Yang, and Lara Zielin
Publisher: Jessica Verday, Kindle Edition
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (560 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

You never forget your first...

In THE FIRST TIME, 25 young adult authors contribute 25 stories all about firsts: first loves, first kisses, first zombie slayings, and more. Featuring New York Times bestselling authors Carrie Ryan and Jessica Verday, plus a host of others. From humor to horror, and everything in between, these stories will make you laugh, cry, cheer, (and maybe even scream) as you experience something brand new from the authors that you love.

What do a zombie apocalypse, a cart princess and a goldfish have in common? They are three of the twenty-five themes represented in this intensely compelling anthology that delves into the experiences of The First Time.

There’s something here to satisfy almost anyone’s preference when these twenty-five super talented young adult writers collaborated on this seductive literary work. I say seductive because once you start reading you won’t want to put it down. The stories draw you in and bring your emotions to the forefront wither you’re laughing, cringing, crying or cheering. Some of the stories end on happy notes, others leave the reader suspended on a cliff hanger, still others give hope for the future and two or three simply end. It’s almost as if the writers gave us an extended story prompt with expectations we’ll finish the story our way. It’s both exciting and frustrating.

In particular, siblings Danny and Julie’s story left me in tears of the “what’s next?” in Carrie Ryan’s A Game of Firsts. As did Hope’s story in Sweet Truth by Stacey Jay. I NEED to know how the author envisioned these stories continuing and more importantly, how they end.

There are several funny stories where I was laughing out loud at the antics and the dialogue of the characters. Kristina Springer’s Cart Princess is a humorous take on a young girl’s first job working in a grocery store. Who ever imagined there was a dating hierarchy in the convenience shopping arena? Certainly not Veronica. You’ll love how she manages to break the ice with the hot produce guy.

In Romeo and What’s Her Name by Shani Petroff we meet Emily who agrees to be the understudy to the lead in her best friend’s play. Why not? Understudies almost never have to perform, right? Wrong! I could totally relate to Emily’s predicament which made the story all the more hilarious.

What if you were the only non-super born into a family of superheros? Jane knows first hand how it feels but don’t count her out…someone has to be the bait to draw out the baddies. Once Burned, Twice Shy by Jessica Verday is a very funny novella with a sweet romance in the end.

Next, step out of your comfort zone with Rhonda Stapleton’s Heart On. Matt’s first date with Jessica doesn’t go quite the way he imagined but the future is looking pretty bright.

If you tend to lean towards the young adult books that are sweet with happy endings you might enjoy Green Glass Reflection by Cheryl Renee Herbsman, Selling Mr. Peanut by Lara Zielin, Turn Here by Jackson Pearce, Evan and Penny by Jenny Moss or Against the World by Jennifer Brown. Each story is unique as it is sweet.

As a daughter and a mother I could empathize with the generation gap between Alex and her mom in Turn Here. In this story they take an impromptu road trip across Georgia when Alex comes upon a pre-programed GPS meant for someone else. Their story proves it’s both the journey as well as the destination that matters. For this mother/daughter duo the roads they travel emotionally are more important than the ones lead by the GPS.

Evan and Penny was another of this group where I had no trouble connecting with the heroine. Penny is average. Actually, her word is “mediocre”. Really, she’s simply normal in a family where you’re not celebrated unless you do something to stand out. I liked that Penny met someone like Evan and was given a fun day. No judging. No pressure. A very sweet beginning.

I was inspired to consider possibilities and other points of view in The First Goldfish of McKinley High by Sydney Salter, The First Time I Got Stranded in the Really Big Empty by Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Two of a Kind by Janet Gurtler, When Skies are Gray by Leigh Brescia, The Trouble With Firsts by Charity Tahmaseb, Azalea by Kurtis Scaletta, Kissing The Dog-Faced Boy by Saudra Mitchell, Freedom by Cyn Balog and Perfect Firsts by J.A. Yang. There are few cliffhangers among this set and several surprises.

Two of a Kind and The Trouble with Firsts were two of my favorites. Ms Gurtler does an amazing job of painting her hero, anti-hero really, Fab, as a jaded drug using son of a famous rocker. He’s seventeen and pretty much on his own. Fab has lived so hard and seen so much in his young life he’s forgotten what it feels like to be innocent…until he met Molly. The premise is clever and the ending…hopeful.

In The Trouble with Firsts by Charity Tahmaseb, friends Mattie and Ian learn a timely lesson about realizing the value of loving what’s right in front of you rather than what you think you might want. Ms. Tahmaseb is a terrific writing voice that truly brought this story to life. There is some pretty funny dialogue in this one that kept it from being overly serious. Considering the tension surrounding stories that come just before and just after, it was refreshing.

There are several paranormal and/or futuristic stories included in this book including Looking Through One Eye by Jon Skovron, Premeditated Cat by C. Lee McKenzie, The Corridor by Teri Hall, Fly to Me by Heidi Kling and The Shark King by Lauren Bjorkman. I saved these for last because I think these may have been my favorite genre explored within the anthology. It’s hard to say which one or ones I liked best because they’re all so different and entertaining. I will say I would love to read an extended version of The Shark King and The Corridor. So many unanswered questions and so much room to expand on these stories.

Fly to Me both stole my breath and left me with hope for the future. Told in first person it begins in a turbulent future set in Paris, France. The young people of the world are being taken and transformed against their will. Though a few seem to welcome the change when it comes other less fortunate few do not accept the change well and become hideous hybrids; not man and not quite beast. I cried for much of the beginning and breathed a sigh of hopeful relief when the story came to a close. I won’t say it’s a happily-ever-after but it’s the best these characters can hope for. It was enough.

You might think with twenty-five different authors there might be one or more stories that weren’t up to par with the others. That wasn’t my experience at all with The First Time. These talented and creative storytellers cover a wide variety of genres and writing styles and yet they complement one another. If the anthology had been structured to only include contemporaries or only comedies it wouldn’t have been the same emotional ride for the readers. If you try to read this whole book in one sitting it will certainly feel like you’ve been on a roller coaster. For that reason, I would suggest reading two or three stories at a time. Simply enjoy the beauty and creativity of each writer’s voice and the direction they take on the “First Time” theme. I for one have added a boat load of new writers to my TBR list to check out. Pick up your copy today and be prepared to take one more amazing adventure after another.

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