Stir Me Up, by Sabrina Elkins

>> Tuesday, November 26, 2013

TITLE: Stir Me Up
AUTHOR: Sabrina Elkins

PAGES: 268
PUBLISHER: Harlequin Teen

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: New Adult romance

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...

In her final months of high school, Cami Broussard spends all her non-school time either in her dad's restaurant or hanging out with her boyfriend, Luke. It's a bit of a stressful time. Cami is engaged in a battle of wills with her father. She wants to follow in his footsteps and become a chef, while he insists she go to university, rather than embark so young on what he knows is a tough, all-consuming career. As for Luke, he's lately been pressuring Cami into having sex, something she's not sure she wants to do with him just yet.

And then Julian comes into her life. Julian was practically brought up by his Aunt Estelle, Cami's stepmother. He went into the military right after high school, and has been in Afghanistan in the couple of years since. But as the book starts, Julian is involved in a really bad incident, one which results in the death of several of his friends dying and his losing a leg. He ends up moving in with Cami's family while he recovers.

Things do not go well at first. Julian is in constant pain, both physical and from grieving the loss of his friends, and that manifests as a really foul temper. Cami, who's already feeling a tiny bit resentful about having to turn her whole daily life inside out to accomodate this guy she's never met, and ashamed of those feelings, is the only one who won't take any shit from him. As they start getting to know each other and spending more time together, Cami starts to realise that she'd rather be with Julian than with Luke, and Julian might feel the same.

I liked this quite a lot when I started it. Cami is a focused and sensible young woman, and completely believable as a chef. I liked the way she thinks about food, and the way it invades her thoughts all the time. It was great, except for a few hiccups (like her Indian food mishap: what experienced cook doesn't taste as she goes along, especially when trying something completely new?). I was particularly interested in her conflicts regarding what to do with her life. It really wasn't a straightforward decision, as both she and her father were right in different ways.

My interest, however, waned as I read on. I guess it all felt too far on the YA end of NA for my tastes. What I like about NA is reading about people establishing their grown-up life, making those crucial decisions about what direction their life is going to take, and doing so in an environment that's changed hugely since when I made those decisions myself. I got a little bit of that from Cami's career issues, but not quite enough. It's the difference between 'what do I want to do after high school?' and 'what is my adult life going to look like?', and Cami's decisions seemed to be more about answering the first question than the second. I'm less interested in that.

The romance was sweet, but definitely much too YA for me, sex or no sex. The ending was appropriate, I felt, recognising that these two (but especially Cami) were too young to be making significant decisions about the directions their lives would take based on a romantic relationship. But that's exactly why, to me, the romance didn't feel completely satisfying, because they were young enough that they couldn't yet decide to build their lives together.

I haven't really said much about Julian. That's because I felt that while the issues around his amputation and recovery were handled well and quite sensitively, he was mainly there to be Cami's love interest. There wasn't really all that much about him and what his own life would look like, just a small bit at the end that felt kind of throwaway.

This is one that worked only partially for me, but readers who like YA romance will probably enjoy it a lot more than I did.



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