Friday 25 August 2023

The First Move

The First Move written by Jenny Ireland (Penguin Books) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN 9780241591826

Reviewed by Sarah Tegerdine

The First Move is a refreshing new contemporary YA romance and debut novel for Jenny Ireland.

Set in urban Northern Ireland, it follows two protagonist’s, Juliet/Jules, a cynical romantic who lives with inflammatory arthritis and Ronan; new boy at school, good looking, smart, he is hiding a massive family secret that he is struggling to cope with.

We meet Juliet, her mood, downcast and in pain, feeling like a burden to everyone around her. She is consumed with insecurities as she now faces school needing crutches for the foreseeable.

Ronan is trying to start a fresh, attempting to put distressing events of the past behind him. However, being incredibly aloof, it makes him a natural point of interest and intrigue to everyone at his new school.

Juliet and Ronan both love chess and as a means of escapism they sign up to an online chess gaming app called ‘Chesslife’. Unknowingly they connect anonymously on the platform and eventually the relationship spills out into real world. Both Jules and Ronan have struggles they are grappling with and ideations to overcome making this a satisfying full circle journey to read.

The First Move is thoughtful and heartwarming with characters you will find yourself totally invested in. At its core, it’s essentially about being young, falling in love, expectations, friendships, grief, guilt, and an insight into living with chronic pain. It challenges the way the reader sees himself/herself and others, being accepting and deserving.

Recommended for a young adult audience including upper middle grade readers.

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