The First To Know – Abigail Johnson – Harlequin Teen – Published 23 October 2017 (Aus) 7 November 2017 (US)
Dana Fields’s father never knew his parents. When Dana secretly does a DNA test for her dad, hoping to find him some distant relatives for his birthday, her entire world implodes. Instead of a few third cousins, Dana discovers a half brother her age whose very existence means her parents’ happy marriage is a lie.
Dana’s desire to know her half brother, Brandon, and the extent of her dad’s deception, clashes with her wish not to destroy her family. When she sees the opportunity to get to know Brandon through his cousin, the intense yet kind Chase, she takes it. But the more she finds out about Brandon, her father’s past and the irresistible guy who’ll never forgive her if he discovers the truth, the more she sees the inevitable fallout from her own lies. With her family crumbling around her, Dana must own up to her actions and find a way to heal the breach—for everyone—before they’re torn apart for good.
Once again I am left utterly speechless by an Abigail Johnson novel. How does she do it!?!! Because The First To Know is the most incredible, agonising, rip-your-heart-out-and-then-sew-it-back-together, amazing book. Asdffdhngikaldnvj….I hope the publisher wasn’t expecting a put-together, coherent review, because all they are going to get is swooning, sighs, exclamation marks and fan-girling. Because it really is just. that. good.
When Dana decides to surprise her father with a birthday present to beat all birthday presents, she could never have expected the bombshell she would unleash. The DNA testing kit was supposed to unveil some long-lost family members – parents or cousins perhaps – for her father who grew up in foster care never knowing anything about his heritage or family. Instead, Dana discovers that her father has a son. A son who is not that much older than she is…and not that much younger than her sister. Confused and devastated, Dana keeps her secret while desperately trying to learn more about her brother, even if it means getting close to Chase, her brother’s cousin, a guy who is starting to mean so much to her, a guy she really shouldn’t be lying to.
This book put me through the emotional wringer. It tore my heart out. I was literally reading some of it peeking through my fingers. I knew that the big unveiling of the truth was going to come, you know from the summary that this secret is going to blow up, big time, but it was still agonising to watch. The part about the DNA testing tearing Dana’s family apart didn’t really hit me until I got a good look at her family. And while things aren’t perfect, while Dana might have problems with her relationship with her Dad, there is no doubting the close bond between her parents, between their whole family. It’s really sweet but also sad knowing where the book is going.
And then there is the romance…. I don’t know what to say, I really don’t. Except maybe, amazing and incredible and breathtaking and….aghhh!
There are so many layers to this book. While Dana is wrestling with her family secret she is also trying to lead her softball team to state championships, balance the love she has for her sister with the resentment she feels about their respective talents and choices in life, and also navigate the unrequited feelings of one of her best friends. So the themes of sport, family, friendship, and romance all give so much depth to this book.
The time Dana spends with Chase is everything she needs and everything she knows she can’t have while she is hiding the truth from him. He is so up-front, honest even when he is hurting, and sure about what he wants. Determined, hurting, kind, sweet (and did I mention incredibly attractive). I was a little unsure about the ending as I was nearing the final pages. Surely I wasn’t going to be left with a broken (read: wrecked, totally devastated, I-need-ice-cream) heart? But Abigail Johnson not only delivers an emotionally overwhelming book, but one that is also hopeful, loving, forgiving and (sorry, if this is getting repetitive, but) totally AMAZING!!
In case my review is not already clear, I absolutely loved this book. I can’t wait to shove it into the hands of my readers, can’t wait to share the reactions and love that this book will inspire. I highly, highly recommend this book for readers who enjoy realistic fiction, contemporary novels that seamlessly combine romance, friendship, relationship breakdown and the importance of family in one incredible book.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Family, romance, love, sisters, siblings, DNA testing, sport, baseball, friendship, adultery, relationships.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: Occasional coarse language, sh** (1), pis*** (9). References to adultery.
Published: 23 October 2017 by Harlequin Teen Australia, 7 November 2017 by Harlequin Teen.
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. 336 pages.
Product Page: http://www.harlequinbooks.com.au/product/9781489242327