Gillycat I have just finished this and it is the first i have read. It is fine as a stand alone and has made me want to read from the beginning
Meg I would read them in order. The family and community relationships change and develop as the series unfolds.
Virginia Runyon I think you can enjoy this one without having read the rest, or any, of the series. I have read most of the series so it is hard for me to tell exactly how it would be without that background. It seem to me she fills the reader in as necessary.