First Fruits is British author Penelope Evans' third book1, published in 2000. It's variously described as a mystery or psychological thriller. It's available in hardback and paperback.
The main character is 14-year-old Edinburgh schoolgirl Kate Carr. She's the only child of Keith Carr, a popular but heretical evangelist. She admires her father and describes herself as the luckiest girl alive. She believes that she has a special power inherited from him - the ability to understand and manipulate other people.
The other important characters are schoolgirls: Lydia, a quiet girl who has just moved to Scotland from England; boisterous Hilary; and mentally disabled Moira. The characters are interesting and well drawn and the book centres around them and their interactions.
It soon becomes apparent that Kate isn't as happy as she claims to be. She was seriously injured in an event that happened a long time ago, which she can't remember and her father doesn't permit her to talk about. Her mother disappeared when she was very young, and she isn't permitted to talk about that either. She finds it difficult trying to live up to her father's expectations and be the perfect daughter. When Lydia joins Kate's class at school, Kate immediately recognises her as someone who is easy to manipulate, and tries to use her to deflect some of her father's attention.
As the story progresses, clues and details about Kate's past emerge. The ending is dramatic, as the truth about Kate's mother is revealed, two murders are committed, and Kate's life changes forever.
First Fruits is written in the first person, from Kate's point of view. She's an unreliable narrator, recounting events from her limited and naive perspective. While she believes her father is perfect, the reader quickly finds clues to his true nature. Kate frequently talks directly to the reader, sharing her observations, opinions and feelings. The author captures a schoolgirl's voice through the use of language, using mainly simple words and short sentences.
Some of the story is repetitious and the pace is slow. There's too much of Kate's childish games and manipulation of the other kids at her school. However, there are hooks to draw the reader along to find out the truth about her past and what will happen to her in the future.
Penelope Evans is a former barrister. She's married, has two daughters and lives in Surrey, England. She talks about First Fruits in an online interview with Wag Magazine.