Book Review: The First Third – Will Kostakis


Title: The First Third (2013)
Author: Will Kostakis
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 248 pages
Release Date: July 24, 2013
Rating: ★★★★☆

Goodreads Description

Life is made up of three parts: in the first third, you’re embarrassed by your family; in the second, you make a family of your own; and in the end, you just embarrass the family you’ve made.

That’s how Billy’s grandmother explains it, anyway. She’s given him her bucket list (cue embarrassment), and now, it’s his job to glue their family back together. No pressure or anything.

Fixing his family’s not going to be easy and Billy’s not ready for change. But as he soon discovers, the first third has to end some time. And then what?

It’s a Greek tragedy waiting to happen.


The First Third is my first novel from Will Kostakis, and boy, was it pretty damn good. This is the story of Billy Tsiolkas, the middle son in a Greek family, and his quest in completing the three items on his grandmother’s bucket list: find his single mother a husband, find his older brother a girlfriend, and ‘fix’ his sullen, uncommunicative younger brother. With the aid of his best friend and a girl he meets at the hospital, Billy seeks to accomplish what his grandmother can’t while he navigates through various life problems.

The key thing I look for in a contemporary novel is for sure the characters, and The First Third has it down to an art. Billy’s narration is funny, tongue-in-cheek, and very entertaining, and through his lens, the rest of the cast comes alive. My favourites include Lucas, Billy’s supportive best friend, and Yiayia, Billy’s snarky yet loving grandmother — these two often provide both emotional scenes yet comedic value to the book.

“The best though,” I said, standing back and relaxing into it, “is when my grandmother goes shopping for bed sheets. She calls them ‘shits’. But she doesn’t just walk in and say she wants ‘shits’, no, it’s always ‘high-quality shits’, ‘comfortable shits’.”

More than that I was impressed by how natural the diverse representation is in this book. Lucas, for example, has cerebral palsy and is gay and disabled. Maria, a love interest, is half-Greek and half-Chinese. These things are part of their character, but they don’t define them as people. It feels… authentic. Effortless. Real.

The First Third speaks to the part of me that loves watching loving families in action. Family often is a huge part of someone’s life, perhaps especially a teenager’s, and it was heart-warming and refreshing to read a book that revolves around this theme. Billy has a lot of love for each and every one of his family member, but he also does questionable things for them, pokes fun at them and gets angry at them — the way family sometimes do.

“I’m not ready, Lucas. Why can’t I stay here forever?”

“It doesn’t work like that,” he said. “We grow up, stuff changes.”

My only criticism is that the ending feels somewhat unrealistic, almost too neat for a book that’s so authentically and beautifully chaotic and messy (though I concur that this might be a personal bias speaking). Beyond that I don’t really have any other complaints, because The First Third is a funny, charming and heartwarming #LoveOzYA novel about families, and you’d do well to give it a chance.

31 thoughts on “Book Review: The First Third – Will Kostakis

  1. So good to hear you enjoyed this Reg! I have been meaning to read this for a while because I’ve heard great things about this and it’s an ozya but for some reason, I’ve never gotten around to it! But fingers crossed I do soon! Great post ❤ (also never mentioned this but your graphics are so cool! I absolutely love them!!)


    • Thank you, Anisha! My fingers are crossed for you to read this soon for sure – I just love it so much and can’t wait to read another Kostakis work. I hope when you finally pick up this book, you’d love it as much as I did or even more.

      (And oh my gosh, thank you so much! You’re too sweet. 💕)


  2. Lovely review, Reg! I love how you always make me discover some new #LoveOzYA books 🙂 I’m so happy to hear that one centers around family, even if sadly the ending isn’t as great as the book was :/ I’m looking forward to reading this, I need to add it to my TBR 🙂


    • Thank you, Marie! Haha, that’s my goal – although now I’ll have to be more on the lookout because I’m not physically there anymore. 😅 Anyway, I definitely recommend this one, despite the ending. I think you’d enjoy it quite a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Too bad about the ending, but I love the sound of this book, and the diversity I was not expecting! It’s been on my wishlist for months now! Great review!


  4. Wow this sounds like an incredible book Reg, I loved pretty much everything you mentioned about it and will have to add this one to my to-read list. It’s great seeing books that focus more on family dynamics like this one seems to, and it’s also great that the family felt real as well. Billy’s reactions being how teenagers are supposed to react around family at times I guess, like you said in your review. Also the representation is incredible to see, as well as the fact it was just a part of these characters and not something that defined them.
    It’s a shame about the end, but a four star review is still great so I guess overall this was a book you loved more than not right?
    Great review! 😀 ❤


    • It really was, Beth! I’d recommend it for the themes and humour alone — it was just engaging and heartwarming all at once. And yeah, the family focus is also really nice to see as it feels realistic and exactly what I think a family is like.

      And definitely! Four stars is pretty high in my book, and the ending is only one small part of the book, after all. Thank you. 😘

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well in that case I’ll definitely be adding this to my to-read list then because that sounds like just the kind of book I love! 😀
        I love seeing any kind of family dynamic in books.
        Oh yeah, pretty high in my book as well, and I’m glad the ending didn’t spoil it more for you or anything. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. After reading your review I went to add this to my TBR straight away and realized I already have it on my TBR (this has happened to me way too many times lately 🙈). So, I guess that means that I need to move it up my reading list! This sounds like such a fantastic book. I love that it focus so much on family dynamics and that it had great representation. All of that is exactly what I’ve been looking for in YA contemporary lately. Plus, that first quote you used in your review made me laugh so hard 😂. I love it! Great review as always, Reg! 😊♥


    • LOL! That has happened to me too, don’t worry. 😂 And I’ll totally recommend moving it up your TBR, because it was just super heart-warming and cute and the family dynamics are just so well-done. 💕

      Thanks, Melissa. Also I just need to tell you this but I’ve finally started The Bone Season! I’m loving it so far. ✨

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s a sign that I need to clean out my TBR already. 😂😂 And I will definitely have to move it up my TBR. With all of these fantasy reads I have a feeling I’ll need a few good contemporaries soon lol.
        Ahhhhhh! I’m so glad to hear that you’re loving TBS so far! 😁 I seriously can’t wait to see your thoughts on it once you finish it, Reg!


        • It’s always the time to clean out the dreaded TBR pile… I’ve got so many books in there that I have no interest in reading any longer. And that’s exactly how I feel after finishing ACOL! I was in a fantasy book hangover and I could only get into contemporary books. 😂

          Yeees, me too! I hope the momentum continues.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Same! I started going through mine today and have already knocked off 100+ books.
            And oh no. See, I’m a little scared I’ll end up going into a fantasy slump once I finish the Shades of Magic books except I plan on going from them to The Night Circus and then A Court of Wings and Ruin. So, hopefully the slump holds out until after those two if it happens. 😂


  6. I’ve seen this author around the Aussie YA blogging community. It sounds like the perfect book for me. I love when characterizations are the focus of a book and it definitely looks like it is over here. I hope it becomes available here at some point.
    Great review, Reg!


    • I definitely recommend it! It’s a little on the short side and is relatively easy to get into as well, thanks to the somewhat breezy, comedic writing style, haha. I don’t know if it’ll ever become available elsewhere because it’s quite underrated, but one can hope!

      Thanks, Nick. 💕


  7. Meanwhile, I’m over here still waiting to find time to read The Sidekicks after Jenna (Reading With) brought a copy over when she visited Toronto haha. Love the inclusion of the natural-feeling diverse cast; always great to see this as is and not made into some “necessary” pot-stirring drama for the sake of itself. I think I’d be irked if the ending was unfulfilling to everything else, but, I’m happy to hear you found another contemporary you [mostly] enjoyed, Reggie! (kek)


    • The first Jenna I thought of, tbh. And lucky you! I actually haven’t read The Sidekicks yet, but I hear it’s a lot sadder. Wonder if the cast is as diverse? Though I suspect I’d rather have a non-diverse cast rather than a diverse cast that is wrongly or offensively portrayed…

      Thanks, Joey! 😂


  8. Omg, I’m definitely adding this one to my TBR! I love that cover and the synopsis! And you’ve sold me with your great review, as always! Thanks, Reg!


  9. I loved this book SO MUCH. I’m really glad you enjoyed it too, Reg ♥ I thought the portrayals on families was so incredible. It was so refreshing to see because I feel like a lot of YA contemporaries forget about it, but I love seeing the dynamics. And like always Will Kostakis broke my heart 😂 Great review 😀


    • I’m so glad, Lauren! I haven’t read The Sidekicks yet but that’s on my TBR, although now that I’ve moved back to Indonesia I have no idea how to get a copy short of buying from Book Depository… but yup, the portrayal of family is wonderful in this one! 💕


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