FicCentral received a free copy of this book from YA Bound Book Tours.
Publisher: Harlequin Teen on October 1, 2013
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance (YA)
Cami Broussard has her future all figured out. She'll finish her senior year of high school, then go to work full-time as an apprentice chef in her father's French restaurant, alongside her boyfriend, Luke. But then twenty-year-old ex-Marine Julian Wyatt comes to live with Cami's family while recovering from serious injuries. And suddenly Cami finds herself questioning everything she thought she wanted.
Julian's all attitude, challenges and intense green-brown eyes. But beneath that abrasive exterior is a man who just might be as lost as Cami's starting to feel. And Cami can't stop thinking about him. Talking to him. Wanting to kiss him. He's got her seriously stirred up. Her senior year has just gotten a lot more complicated….
This book includes mature subject matter that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.
Cami’s life seems pretty normal. A senior in high school, she has a good home life, a passion for cooking, and Luke, her hot boyfriend with whom there’s no shortage of chemistry. But life is about to throw her a curve ball in the form of an angry, wounded soldier.
Julian is a former marine, critically wounded overseas, and his return home is anything but joyous. The bomb that took his leg also took the lives of his friends and fellow Marines. Having lost his parents at a young age, he was raised by Cami’s stepmother Estella, so after leaving the hospital against medical advice, he moves in with Cami’s family.
Julian’s arrival upsets Cami comfortable life in more ways than one. First, she’s forced to give up her bedroom and bathroom, since they’re the only ones accessible to Julian in his wheelchair, and she’s moved into an alcove upstairs — complete with a cot and no door. Then, of course, there’s Julian’s attitude. He’s understandably angry and most certainly dealing with PTSD, and no matter what Cami does, he’s angry with her. He gives her grief when she sneaks out to meet her boyfriend, though he doesn’t tell on her, and even picks a fight with Luke the one time she invites him over to dinner.
The framework of the story isn’t exactly original — angry boy meets girl, girl realizes she wants said boy more than her boyfriend, feelings ignite, and they live happily ever after. But the way Sabrina Elkins puts it all together, the way she sets the scene and doesn’t overdo the angst we know is coming makes for a fresh read.
Cami is more driven than the average teen, but Elkins writes her in a way that’s believable. Cami’s every bit as confused and conflicted as any teenage girl, and while her parents want what’s best for her, there’s always a huge chasm when it comes to communication. Luke is nice, and he’s ready to take their relationship to the next level, but Cami’s holding back, and Julian only reinforces her doubt when it comes to a future with Luke. And Julian is refreshingly decent. Yes, he has anger issues, and yes, he’s been through shit no one could possibly come away from unscarred, but he’s not unnecessarily cruel, even at his meanest. In fact, it becomes clear pretty early on that he’s a good guy who isn’t determined to dwell on the darkness of what he experienced in a war zone.
Cami and Julian’s relationship builds slowly, going from adversaries to friendly housemates to friends to more, and it’s a great ride. They face the expected obstacles, including Cami’s parents, who aren’t exactly thrilled about the relationship that has formed under their roof. There’s the expected angst, and even an attempt by Julian to cool things off between them, but the story moves on without drowning readers in unnecessary drama.
One of the things I was most impressed with was the author’s handling of the sex scenes. They weren’t overly graphic, but they weren’t fade-to-black or glossed over. That’s not something I would usually look for in a book about a teenage girl, but it was a big part of the emotional aspect of the story, including Julian’s reluctance to show his scarred body and Cami’s complete acceptance of it.
I have to say, I wasn’t a big fan of Cami’s parents. I’m not sure that they were meant to be perceived this way, but they both came across as incredibly self-absorbed and rather inconsiderate of their daughter. Sure, most parents aren’t able to fully connect with their teenagers, but Cami’s father is almost cruel in his constant judgement of her, and Estella, while friendly enough, doesn’t seem to care all that much. Cami only learned she was losing her bedroom when it was casually mentioned, as if she should have already assumed. And it’s clear that any argument on her part would simply result in a guilt trip. I don’t really think they should have remodeled the house or built on an extra room, but I can tell you that my parents would never have made me sleep on an uncomfortable cot for an indefinite amount of time. They would have at least gone out and picked up a futon or cheap frame bed for me to use. Is it weird that this particular detail bugged the hell out of me?
Bed issue aside, it’s a great story, and it had me hooked from the first chapter. As serious as the wounded veteran issue is, the author handles it with a decent amount of realism while keeping it appropriate for the younger audience to whom the book is geared. The love between Cami and Julian is sweet and believable, and about the only thing I can complain about is the fact that the book didn’t go on for another thousand pages.