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The First Move

By Jenny Ireland

Reviewed by Lucille Rose

The First Move by Jenny Ireland is a YA romance starring Juliet, a cynical teen with inflammatory arthritis, and Ronan, a brooding bad boy with a secret, who meet disguised as online chess players. In real life, Juliet hates Ronan and his arrogant seriousness. But online Juliet is smitten with this secret chess player. Will she ever discover who he really is? Or will their love grow outside of reality, and on the chess board.
As a teenage girl, I love angst. My favorite part of a romance book is that act-three fight where the love interests have a big falling out and break up (but only when they get back together, obviously). But too much of a good thing is almost always a bad thing.
The First Move began in the worst way, with trauma. I was not two pages into their respective chapters when both protagonists began long, boring explanations of their hardships, which continued to be mentioned every two sentences throughout the entire novel. Every book character has some troubled past that has shaped their life, and it can create a beautiful connection between them and the reader. But when said characters make their trauma their entire personality, as was done in The First Move, it makes them uninteresting, annoying and destroys any hope of the audience actually enjoying what they are reading.
Ronan had a view of the world that made seeing it through his eyes cringe-inducing, to say the least. If he wasn’t complaining about how people were trying to be nice to him, or that life was depressing, then he was being the biggest red flag to ever grace the pages of a book. After ending his relationship with his girlfriend over text, he didn’t fail to harass her about her new boyfriend every chance he got.
Jules was a character who at first, I had empathy for. Her life with arthritis was not an easy one, and represents lots of young people who struggle with the disease. But that is where my compassion for Juliet ends. It is hard, nay impossible, to feel sorry for someone who uses the one bad aspect of her life as a reason to make the rest of it terrible. She constantly complained about how her life was awful, despite being extremely privileged in many other ways. This was followed by an un-original personality pulled straight from a 2000’s teen movie. In the author’s attempt to make Jules seem unique and ‘not like other girls’, she created a completely insufferable character whom I had the displeasure of reading for four hundred and forty-two pages.
The relationship between Jules and Ronan was as far from a romance as one could get. Their complete lack of chemistry had me almost falling asleep on the page; their ‘sizzling banter’ was so dull it made it hard to realize they were even flirting. This book was a supposed enemies-to-lovers, and as a great admirer of the trope, it was hard to see it so battered. Jules, after all of one meeting with Ronan in which less than four words were spoken, was set upon hating him until the end of time. And despite her resolve, she caught feelings only a few chapters later. It took only two online conversations for the couple to fall in love, and even less time for them to fall apart.
Overall, it is not a book I will be reading again. 2\5 stars, suggested for fourteen- to sixteen-year-olds.

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