Friday, October 22, 2010

First Time (Novel)

First Time (Novel) Release date: 2008. Author: Meg Tilly. Publisher: Orca Books. ISBN: 9781551439464.

Plot summary: Sixteen-year-old Haley lives with her mother and is a typical high school student. She spends most of her free time with her best friend Lynn, driving to local hangouts in Lynn’s recently purchased car. Things change for Haley when Lynn becomes infatuated with older boy Chad and begins preferring to spend time with her new boyfriend over her Haley. This distancing between friends is nothing, however, compared to what Haley must endure after her mother’s boyfriend, the charming Larry, attempts to rape Haley. With no one to talk to, and full of shame, Haley is continually haunted by the memory of Larry’s abuse. Convinced that she somehow brought the sexual advances on herself, Haley decides to keep Larry’s actions a secret from her mother. But the more Haley internalizes her abuse, the darker her life becomes. Can Haley gather the courage to tell her mother the truth about her seemingly perfect boyfriend?

Critical evaluation: First Time is a “high/low” novel for teens, meaning it is about a topic of high interest to teens, but is written at a low reading level. This type of novel is designed to appeal to reluctant readers, and First Time is an ideal book in this category. Although the novel is not very long, the characters are fully developed and the situations that Haley must deal with are very well portrayed. The distancing between Haley and her best friend Lynn is a common problem for teens and will resonate with readers. The abuse Haley endures from Larry, however, is a far more emotional issue. Larry’s attempted rape is not graphically described, but is terrifying nonetheless. The way Haley deals with the abuse is something many teens in similar situations can also identify with. Haley initially blames herself, thinking that she somehow encouraged Larry’s unwanted advances. As Haley’s life gets darker, the reader experiences her downward spiral as well. First Time is an excellent novel for teens that are having trouble with reading for pleasure, and has an important message as well.

Reader's annotation: Haley’s life is forever changed when her mother’s boyfriend, the handsome and charming Larry, attempts to rape her. Can Haley find the courage to tell her mother the truth?

About the author: Meg Tilly is an author, dancer, and, like sister Jennifer Tilly, an actress. Born in British Columbia in 1960, Tilly moved to the New York City after high school to pursue a career in dance. She studied dance passionately, and even had a role in the movie Fame, but, due to an unfortunate accident that left her with a broken back, had to give up dance. After, Tilly moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting with the help of her sister Jennifer. After several successful years in Hollywood, Tilly began to write in the early 1990s. Her first novel Singing Songs was published in 1994. Her other novels include Porcupine (2007) and Gemma (2010). First Time is Tilly's first novel for reluctant readers. The novel has received many honors, including the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Best Book designation for 2010, a nomination for the 2009 Golden Eagle award, and one of YALSA's Quick Picks.  (from
Genre: Fiction: High/Low

Curriculum ties:
High/low novel for reluctant reader

Booktalking ideas:
Single parents

Reading level/Interest Age:
8-12 Grade

Challenge issues:
Teen sexuality

Challenge counterpoints:
Recommended for grades 8-12.
Recommend parent read book before child.
Recommend parent discuss book with child.
Offer pamphlet/flier for teens about sexual assault.

Reasons for inclusion:
Positive reviews from multiple sources (Library Media Connection, VOYA, Tri State Young Adult Book Review Committee).
Important to have high/low novels in collection for reluctant readers.

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