First There Was Forever by Juliana Romano ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Publisher: Penguin/Dial Books
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: turning 16, best friends, popularity, sex
Format read: ARC from Publisher. (Thank you!)
Summary: Total opposites Lima and Hailey have been best friends forever until Hailey finds herself more concerned with popularity and crushing on Nate, a guy who doesn’t give her the time of day. Subsequently, Lima finds herself dealing with Hailey’s absence as she attempts to make new friends — one of these new friends being Hailey’s Nate.
It’s safe to say we’ve all had a friend that seems to outshines us. Sure, sometimes it’s frustrating but most of the time we dismiss it because “it’s just the way they are”. Even if this is the case in Lima and Hailey’s friendship, they both bring to the table qualities the other needs. They balance each other out. Lima’s life (two well-to-do, supportive parents) brings stability into Hailey’s (divorced, sort of absent). Hailey’s outgoing nature brings Lima out of her shell but also solidifies this intimacy they have with one another because Lima can trust Hailey with her most outrageous, embarrassing questions.
No one is on the same path when they are 15 or 16 years old. In fact, I think it’s probably one of the last times we might be on similar journeys as our friends. Lima might be perfectly content with spending time with her family, swimming at her aunt’s pool, and visiting food markets and gardening. At the same time, Hailey intensely throws herself into the in-crowd and the parties, and is sure she is in love with a quiet yet popular, Nate. Why does one person move ahead when another wants to stand still? Who decides these things? Like Lima, I have no idea. She maybe feel “behind” but she also wants to maintain her own pace. She even puts herself out there to meet some new friends but no one quite fills the space that was once occupied by Hailey. The heartbreak only builds because there are times when Hailey seems to be her old self. Is it possible they can go back to where they used to be? Nothing feels quite as solid as it once did.
I am completely in love with Romano’s writing. First There Was Forever was a debut, and I was in deep — the questions about sex and loyalty; the limits you set for yourself and the times you decide to go beyond them; the trust you have in your friends; the urge to hang on to our parents but to also break away — all against this brilliant, laidback California lifestyle. Romano also throws in a major wrench when Lima finds a friendship with Nate, the guy of Hailey’s dreams (or so she thinks). It’s a complicated and complex relationship but sometimes we can’t explain why these things happen. They just do and we have to go for it, or not. With Hailey acting selfish and out of character, I’m not surprised that Nate became such a big part of Lima’s life. He was simply there when her best friend wasn’t.
There’s truly a laundry list of moments to discuss in this book, but one thing I wanted to point out was how much our parent influence our friends during this time of our life. Lima needed a break from Hailey; it’s understandable she isn’t running to her parents to list Hailey’s “sins” but there’s such guilt when she sees that her mom misses Hailey having around too. The sadness continues to build, and sometimes we are helpless to put a cork in it. One quick reminder: these characters are on the younger side for YA. Romano presents their voices and actions so authentically, despite the “grown-up” questions they are asking themselves and each other.