I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is January 5, 2016.
Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself. Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed. When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process.
I did not expect to like this book at all. The premise just seemed weird to me: a girl who sleeps with guys (with girlfriends) who are virgins so that they can get their first time over with. I do really hate cheating, but I think this storyline was still handled rather well.
First of all, I just have to mention the first thing that grabbed my attention: THE USE OF BIRTH CONTROL!! How often is the use of condoms spoken of so freely in YA literature? Or any other genre? I have read my share of adult fiction and adult romance novels to know that condoms are either not spoken about at all or not used. Mercedes never depended on the guy to provide the condom. She had her own supply. And when a guy wanted to have sex without a condom, she put the stop to that right away. Loved that!!
Mercedes is such an easy character to like, despite the fact that she made many, many questionable decisions. She was flawed, but I understood why she did what she did (even though I disagreed). Mercedes had a horrible first time (which she does reveal late in the book) and this prompts her to "help" other guys so they can make sure their girlfriends have the perfect first time that she never had. I kind of got why Mercedes was doing it (like I said though, I really didn't agree), but I had no idea why these boys would cheat on their girlfriends that they supposedly loved. The beauty of this author is that she was able to make me feel so much about a girl who sets out to deliberately sleep with other girls' boyfriends. And I could relate to her thought process so much. Eventually, the secret does come out and the slut shaming in this book made me so angry. Yes, the girlfriends whose boyfriends cheated were mad at their respective boyfriends. But they did not make their lives miserable like they did with Mercedes. There was even a scene where a group of girls physically attacked Mercedes. Was that really necessary? I thought it was unfair for Mercedes to be called a home wrecker and a whore, especially since it's not like she forced any of those guys to sleep with her.
I think that towards the end though (before the secret came out), she gets sloppy and doesn't worry about the secrecy part anymore because she is using sex as a way to gain control of her life. Like I said, Mercedes is flawed. She has sex when she wants to and because she likes and then she has sex because she doesn't want to feel anything and she has sex because she thinks that's what she should be doing. I could appreciate her relationship with Zach above the others, mainly because it seemed like she actually enjoyed being with him. She was also terrified of falling for him and wanting more than just sex because she thought he would hurt her. When I found out the details of her first time, that was understandable. Also, her dad left and her mom was super hypersexualized. Her mom talked about birth control with her when she first got her period (which was a good thing) and she also had guys coming in and out of Mercedes's life all the time. Sometimes it seemed like Mercedes was sleeping with all these guys just to get her mother's attention. Not that she cared. Her mom was a piece of work, but there were times when it seemed like she was making an effort with Mercedes.
There were so many important messages in this book about sex and your first time and waiting. I am not religious at all, but I loved Mercedes's best friend, Angela and how determined she was to wait to have sex until she was married. When her boyfriend, Charlie (who was a complete jerk), started pressuring her to have sex, I was rooting for Angela NOT to give in unless she actually wanted to. There were so many honest conversations about sex and so much discussion about why people chose to have sex. I really wanted these girls to learn the lesson of waiting until you are ready to have sex. I think it's great that Mercedes was a character who loved sex and who wanted it (it's so rare to find a female in YA or any other genre with a healthy sex drive), but I still wanted her to realize that there was more to a relationship than just sex and that she could bring something to a relationship besides her body. I do feel there was some character development in this book, so I think she learned her lesson.
Buy/Borrow/Skip: If you are willing to go into this knowing there are some questionable decisions made about sex, I think you should buy this one. It was worth the read for sure.