Up In Flames
Simon & Schuster UK
Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster AU
Elle Montgomery has always done what has been expected of her. She’s the girl who doesn’t swear, doesn’t drink or smoke or go to parties. She goes to school and she works in her father’s restaurant. She’s been dating the son of the local pastor for two years now and it’s assumed that now that school has finished and they’ve graduated, they’ll get engaged. Logan will take over his father’s farm and they’ll pop out little babies and live happily every.
But inside Elle, a part of her is screaming to break out of this mold. She’s tired of living her life the way everyone else wants her to, the way everyone else expects her to. She’s applied for college and she hasn’t told anyone – not her father, not her best friend and certainly not Logan. Everyone else has Elle’s life mapped out for her but it seems that no one has actually thought to ask her what she wants.
And then Elle meets Cole Carson, a smokejumper in town for the summer to help fight the dangerous bushfires. Cole is an adrenalin junkie who has lived his life for himself, never for anyone else. He has freedom. At first glance, he and Elle could not be more different. But with Cole, Elle feels that wild girl inside that is dying to get out. He makes her want to do things. He makes her feel things.
But Cole is only in town for the summer. He has no roots anywhere. And Elle is still struggling with herself, with who she is and what she really wants deep down inside.
This is the second book I’ve read that contains infidelity recently but the circumstances and the way in which it is handled is very different. In this book, Elle has just graduated high school. She’s been raised by her widower father who wants to wrap her up in cotton wool and protect her, feeling as though he failed to protect Elle’s mother. As a result, Elle has been brought up in a strict environment and is the girl who always does what is expected of her. She doesn’t break curfew, or go drinking at parties and she’s been in a very chaste relationship with Logan for the past 2 years. It’s expected now that they will take the next step to marriage, despite their young ages. It seems as though no one has asked Elle how she feels about this, just assuming it’s what she wants and that she’ll go along with it. Elle never rocks the boat, she never speaks up, so why should now be any different? When she meets Cole, he swiftly points out that if she doesn’t do something, say something, her whole life will have passed her by before she realises it and she won’t have done one thing that she herself wanted to do.
I get where Cole is coming from, and I agree with him. I also sort of understand what it might be like for Elle, finding some excitement and sexual attraction with Cole but oh man does she go about things the wrong way. She and Logan haven’t really done much more than kiss but after experiencing things with Cole, she starts pushing Logan’s buttons, waking up his sex drive as well. They don’t go all the way but they go further than they have before and she’s back and forth between Cole and Logan, often playing games in front of the other. The scene in the bowling alley where Elle is bowling with Logan and her friends and Cole shows up with a girl and they engage in some sort of “make out off” to make the other jealous is cringeworthy and reflects terribly on both of them. The excuses come thick and fast later and I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that Cole and Elle really barely know each other but they’re so invested in this. Cole plays devastated and tortured pretty well and in most circumstances, I’d have found it well done but my brain just kept saying you met her two days ago. What the heck? I really didn’t like the fact that Elle just went back and forth between them for a while, playing Logan. She wasn’t quite willing to let him go because she didn’t quite know what would happen with Cole. As soon as Cole made her feel like he’d be sticking around, she wanted to drop Logan like a hot potato but she didn’t do it right away and of course the poor guy found out in about the worst possible way. It made Elle seem really unnecessarily cruel and as she kept telling herself, she’d known Logan since she was little and he was a friend as well – so why treat him that way? She needed to own her decisions, not take the coward’s way out.
This book had potential – I enjoy stories of people finding out who they really are and having the courage to break the shackles and stand up for what they really want. But there’s a way to do that without being well, horrid and unfortunately Elle really failed that. The shallow encounters with Cole weren’t really enough to build up a credible connection. I felt like the two of them sometimes brought out the worst in each other as well as the best – such as the ridiculous jealousy and need to hurt and punish each other for misunderstandings. If they’d started on a clean slate, if Cole had backed up his statement about not wanting her while she was with someone else, it might’ve come across better. But their relationship, for lack of a better term, had so many things wrong with it in the beginning that it managed to showcase them both in a very unflattering way. Although it was interesting to read from the point of view of such a flawed protagonist who made so many mistakes, it made it very difficult to enjoy the story because of her actions at times.
Book #253 of 2013