First There Was Forever by Juliana Romano
“Perfect for fans of Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty and Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door, Juliana Romano’s expressive debut is an absorbing and bittersweet story about first love, first loss, and the friends that carry us through it all.
Lima and Hailey have always been best friends: Lima shy and sensitive, Hailey funny and free-spirited. But Hailey abandons Lima to party with the popular kids and pursue Nate, her disinterested crush. As their friendship falters, Lima and Nate begin spending more time together. And before Lima knows what she’s feeling, she and Nate do something irreversible. Something that would hurt Hailey….if she knew it happened.
Lima thinks she’s saving her friendship by lying, but she’s only buying time. As the secrets stack up, Lima is forced to make a choice: between her best friend forever, and the boy who wasn’t meant to be hers.”
Because I absolutely loved The Summer I Turned Pretty series and My Life Next Door, I decided to give this a try! Look out for the review coming within the next week!
First There Was Forever has been one of the realest books I’ve read in a long time. While I consider it to be a well-written and accurate description of high school life, I didn’t always enjoy reading it. It’s a book that makes you feel uncomfortable, perhaps because it so adeptly captures the crippling awkwardness and angst of the high school experience.
I highly recommend this book, but if you are looking for a light, fun read I’d suggest something else. The story is about Lima’s tenth grade year. While the description may make it seem that romance is the focus of the story, it really isn’t. In fact, if you’re looking for only romance this book will leave you unsatisfied. The romance between Nate and Lima is, in my opinion, very real. Nate isn’t perfect or overly romantic and he does leave her feeling insecure at times. However, I still really liked how their relationship was portrayed. I think Lima’s experience with Nate is what many of us experience with guys, especially with that first guy. And just because it’s not overly romantic doesn’t mean it’s bad.
And one thing I absolutely loved was that Nate didn’t just come in save Lima and all of a sudden her life was better. Even books that try to stay away from this trope somehow end up back there. I think it’s fantastic to remind teenage girls (and myself now at 21) that we cannot expect one person (dream guy) to come along and make everything better. Anyway, back to the book…
My favorite relationship in the book was Hailey and Lima’s. I’ve read many books where the protagonist falls for the best friend’s boyfriend. The best friend always has the stronger personality and the protagonist is shy. This is also the route First There Was Forever chooses. However, the book provided depth that other books with similar plots have not been able to do. Lima’s friendship with Hailey is incredibly complicated. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that the reader can feel Lima’s inner conflict when it comes to Hailey. Although Lima hesitates moving on from Hailey due to fear, she does feel a genuine sisterly love for this girl she’s known for years. I think the way Romano wrote this relationship was completely on target. It’s one of the best portrayals of friendship I’ve read in a YA book.
My main critique is that some parts moved very slowly, and it was hard for me to stay interested throughout the entire book. Secondly, while the relationships in this book were great, I wish I could have liked the characters more. I found myself trying hard to like Lima. I know I’ve said this before, but I like my leading ladies to have some spunk. However, I do think she is a character many YA readers will relate to, in some way.
Long story, short:
This book is a well-written account of a girl dealing with all the change in her life. It is not quick or light (or even fun, really), but it sucked me in like no other book has in a long time. It brings forth those uncomfortable, but incredibly important, high school feelings that many YA books shy away from. I highly recommend it–when you’re in the right mood.
If you liked this, try…
Sometimes It Happens by Lauren Barnholdt: A very light, fast-paced read and one of my all-time favorites. Perfect if you loved the love triangle aspect of the book and you’re looking for something more fun.
The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott: Also about a love triangle, and heavier than Sometimes It Happens but lighter than First There Was Forever. A great read.
The Disenchantments by Nina Lacour: A beautifully written book about friendship and love. It feels a lot like First There Was Forever, and it’s definitely more serious than the other two. One of the best YA books I’ve read, and you can read about my thoughts here.