Connect with the Protagonist and the Conflict
First & Then, by Emma Mills, is a realistic fiction novel about Devon Tennyson. Devon goes to parties, does homework, and hangs out with friends like any other normal senior. Things start to take an unexpected turn in her life as the year goes on, though. She is hopelessly in love with her best friends, Cas, but he doesn’t seem to take a hint. Her cousin suddenly moves in with her and her family and now they are “siblings.” She surprisingly becomes friends with the best football player at the school who nobody else seems to be able to figure out.
At the beginning of the book, Devon is at the Road-to-College Club and is showing the counselor, Mrs. Wentworth, her college essay. The only problem is that she didn’t put any thought into her essay and didn’t really expect to. Throughout the book, she struggles with trying to improve her college resume so that she can get into her dream college: Reeding College. She volunteers as a TA, joins the school paper, and searches for help from the best student she knows.
“‘Devon, I really need you to take this seriously.’
I just couldn’t find it in my heart to do that.
‘But it reads like you wrote it during a commercial break.’
I took offense to that. I wrote it during at least four commercial breaks.
‘How much thought did you really give this?'” (Mills, p. 2)
I can connect with Devon because although I am not a senior preparing for college, I am an eight grader preparing for high school. I have gone through similar conversations as she had with my mom about the essays that I had written for honors next year. I had also struggled a bit with writing my essay because I didn’t really know what to write about.
Mills, Emma. First & Then. New York: Henry Holt, 2015. Print.