First Time for Everything
- Author: Henry Fry
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Publication Date: May 10, 2022
- Publisher: Ballantine Books
Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
CONTENT WARNING: gay slurs, panic attack, blood, bullying, drug use
An unflinchingly honest, wickedly funny, and heartfelt debut about a down-on-his-luck gay man working out how he fits into the world, making up for lost time, and opening himself up to life’s possibilities
“Hilarious, tender, raw, and heart-stoppingly moving . . . I adored this powerful, wonderful book.”–Amanda Eyre Ward, New York Times bestselling author of The Jetsetters
Danny Scudd is absolutely fine. He always dreamed of escaping the small-town life of his parents’ fish-and-chip shop, moving to London, and becoming a journalist. And, after five years in the city, his career isn’t exactly awful, and his relationship with pretentious Tobbs isn’t exactly unfulfilling. Certainly his limited-edition Dolly Parton vinyls and many (maybe too many) house plants are hitting the spot. But his world is flipped upside down when a visit to the local clinic reveals that Tobbs might not have been exactly faithful. In fact, Tobbs claims they were never operating under the “heteronormative paradigm” of monogamy to begin with. Oh, and Danny’s flatmates are unceremoniously evicting him because they want to start a family. It’s all going quite well.
Newly single and with nowhere to live, Danny is forced to move in with his best friend, Jacob, a flamboyant nonbinary artist whom he’s known since childhood, and their eccentric group of friends living in an East London “commune.” What follows is a colorful voyage of discovery through modern queer life, dating, work, and lots of therapy–all places Danny has always been too afraid to fully explore. Upon realizing just how little he knows about himself and his sexuality, he careens from one questionable decision (and man) to another, relying on his inscrutable new therapist and housemates to help him face the demons he’s spent his entire life trying to repress. Is he really fine, after all?
I’m not sure why I didn’t think this book was be as serious as it was, but I did. Even though the summary mentions that Danny has issues with her significant other not being monogamous as he thought, having to find a new home to live in, and learning to accept himself and his sexuality. And while it was a lot heavier than I had originally expected, I found myself quickly absorbed in Danny’s story. It didn’t hurt that there are some funny parts, as well as some parts that were so painful as to be uncomfortable to read about—it’s never easy to see someone’s life explode before you on the page.
Danny himself is a total pushover. He deals with anxiety and panic attacks, which are described in incredible detail. And when he’s offered new housing, it comes with a caveat—he has to agree to attend therapy with an LGBTQ-friendly therapist. I loved how mental health and therapy are placed at the forefront of the story as Danny works to sort out his issues and discover who he really is.
The author takes us on a hilarious, uncomfortable, painful, and ultimately uplifting journey through Danny’s life, as he starts realizing things that need to change, and then working on them, not always with ideal results. But it also talks about homophobia, internalized homophobia, bullying, painful relationships, the value of supportive friends and family, and self-love.
In short, I loved this story. It was sometimes difficult to read, but I feel like I finished with a greater understanding of what this one man and many gay men go through in their own journey through life and acceptance, both internal and external. I enjoyed seeing Danny’s relationships grow and change, and realizing where he was wrong and needed to change. He’s exposed to a wide range of diverse people, and seeing how LGBTQ people struggle in ways that are both similar and different to his own experiences. He winds up moving in with a quirky and fun group of people, who are gay, transgender, non-binary, and of different backgrounds from his own. All of the side characters are beautifully rendered, and I especially appreciated how therapy done right is portrayed, especially since often therapists are portrayed inaccurately and negatively. I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye out for more work by Henry Fry.
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