Firsts is a young adult romance novel that explores several common thresholds into adulthood: first love, first time having sex, first bad relationship, first time making major life decisions, and forging a new adult persona separate from the defaults of childhood and habits of adolescence.
The main characters are Savannah and Wesley, lifelong best friends who are facing the end of high school and uncertainty about their future. Wes is secretly in love with Savannah, but she refuses to think of him as anything other than a platonic friend. Throughout the story, Savannah and Wesley each overcome their crippling insecurity and feelings of inadequacy in order to face a set of challenges that push them to take charge of their lives as adults. Instead of accepting the growing sense of disappointment and failure that drifts in with the tide of everyday life, each character takes unprecedented risks in order to achieve something greater.
There are two long sex scenes in the book, which include no kinks and nothing that would be shocking to a mentally healthy heterosexual adult, but plenty of passion and anticipation.
Savannah is often sarcastic, and like all American teenagers, she's rough with herself and her friends. Repeating old social patterns from middle school (the most emotionally damaging mandatory experience for middle-class Americans) and the reflexive reactions of confusion and disgust with sex and attraction end up putting her in a position where she doesn't know who she is or what she feels anymore. Regardless of her identity and insecurity problems, Savannah doesn't allow herself to be moulded by the desires and demands of her peers, which is the guilt- and shame-laden trap that so many teenagers fall into. Her voice is not from my Character Zoo; it's something I created specifically for Firsts, and it isn't anything flashy -- it's just a more musical voice with a slightly higher pitch, and with an attitude of mild frustration, insecurity, defensiveness, and a strong sense of self-protection. She may beat herself up, but she'll be damned before she lets other people treat her the same way.
Wesley is a character I identified with in terms of his feelings, reactions, and his solution to forging a new adult identity. His frustration with his innate inability to be attractive to Savannah is not blamed on her, or society, or other men. He accepts full responsibility for his situation, and takes extraordinary measures to transform himself into the man that he is capable of being. Wes is mild-mannered and caring as a friend, but his hatred for Savannah's aggressive boyfriend mixes with his ever-growing sense of sexual frustration to force him into moments of rage. Part of the growth of Wes' character is learning to channel that energy into productive and creative work that helps him achieve his goals, rather than succumb to fear, anger, and jealousy. He's originally from England and actively maintains his non-specific regional accent in order to appear exotic. Upon going to college and casting off his old self, though, Wes becomes Thorn, and adopts a much more confident, controlled voice with a mild Yorkshire accent (arguably more exotic, which is the point). Originally the script called for a Cockney accent, but I just couldn't find a way to make that work as a romantic lead. Cockney is too closely associated with the lazy slob, bumbling henchman, or back-alley thief. I used a slightly modified version of the Dylan voice I developed for The Not-World.
The other characters were minor, but had very important voices:
Jeremy is Wes' college roommate, and his opening scene has both Wes and Savannah blown away by his balance between calm kindness and raw un-self-conscious male sex appeal. I modified my Grant Auriga voice for Jeremy, because it thunders with confidence and social competence. Though a minor character, this is the most important voice in the audio book for two reasons: it forces Wes to perform at a higher level, and it's a lack of attraction to perfectly-attractive Jeremy that sparks Savannah's turning point.
Daniel is talked about a lot in the book, but only has two speaking scenes. He's an unrestrained sociopath, a product of early 21st century white male American subculture, full of the kind of brute-force privilege that comes with the exaltation of star athletes. Everyone knows a Daniel, I think. I gave him a deeper voice with some variance that suggests contempt and arrogance.
Paige is Wes' first girlfriend, whom Savannah has a level of contempt for that can best be described as Jungian. I would have preferred to make Paige sexy and sophisticated, like an educated Marilyn Monroe or classier Mae West, but she only has two short scenes and is represented solely through Savannah's narrative perspective, so I gave her a typical "sexy baby" voice with an attitude of condescension and narcissism. Sorry, Paige!
Allie, Savannah's female best friend, is uptight, easily excited, and a little too obsessed with academics. It's the highest-pitched voice I've ever done without going falsetto, and it wore down my vocal stamina at a rapid pace.
The narration is third-person limited, but switches between Savannah's perspective and Wes'. I played it neutral, but added in the emotion of the character where appropriate, and used the Internal Monologue effect for thoughts and flashbacks.
Firsts is basically an X-rated John Hughes film with a longer and more developed story and much sexier love scenes. How could you say no to that? If you're into romance, erotica, and/or if you enjoyed my performance in Lost Treasure, you've got to get a copy of Firsts.