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REVIEW: Stir Me Up by Sabrina Elkins

Dear Ms. Elkins:

Your editor emailed me and asked me to take a look at this book. I think it sat in my inbox for at least a week and she contacted me again. She loves this book and wanted it to get read. Now I love this book and want it to get read.  In fact, in the last podcast I recorded with Sarah from Smart Bitches, I threatened to not talk during the next podcast if she didn’t at least read Stir Me Up.  Sarah called me a book bully.

Stir Me Up by Sabrina ElkinsCami Broussard grew up in her father’s kitchen and wants to be a chef someday but her father keeps pushing her toward college.  The chef’s life is not an easy one and he tries to explain to her all the negatives. She will have to work every holiday.  She won’t be home for dinner.  She will miss more family events that she will make. The restaurant will own her.

While Cami pretends to be interested in colleges, she and her current boyfriend (and employee at her father’s restaurant) dream of their restaurant owning future together. Cami’s last year of high school is interrupted by the arrival of her step cousin, Julian. Wounded while deployed, Julian comes to Cami’s home to recuperate.  He’s angry, sullen, and bad tempered and takes it out on everyone including Cami.  Worse, Cami’s abruptly ousted from her first floor bedroom to an attic alcove that doesn’t even have a door or a closet.  And what can she say? No, the war veteran should sleep in the floor in the living room? Things with her boyfriend take a turn when he continues to pressure her for sex which Cami isn’t quite ready for.

I couldn’t decide if this was a hamfisted way to clear a path for Julian but given that the breakup between Cami and Luke doesn’t quite happen in an expected way, I weighed in on the no side. Besides, I like it when the heroes of YA books are okay with waiting because that’s a message I’ll want my daughter to read. Just putting my bias out there.

The relationship between Cami and Julian is entirely believable as they go from antagonists to reluctant confidantes to something more.  Cooking plays a huge role in this book and I loved how evocative the writing was as it pertained to Cami’s love for food.  In the book, the creation of food becomes a metaphor and initially the only way that Cami reveals her feelings for Julian, perhaps at first even unconsciously.

Cami is a great heroine. She’s not hung up on her looks or getting the guy in this story; she’s trying to figure out her place in the world. Her thoughts aren’t filled with where the next party is or whether she is fitting in with the right crowd at high school. She’s busy trying to cope with her feelings for the wounded guy in her bedroom and deciphering what it means when he tells her to decide for herself what she wants out of life.

“No big deal,” he says. “For this one… ” He scrolls back up. “Just start with something like Ever since I was little, my father has owned his own French restaurant.”

He moves away from the computer and looks at me. “Ever since I was little…. ” I say.

“You’ll need to put it in your own words.”

“Okay. How about: I spent most of my childhood playing behind the stoves of my father’s French restaurant.

This mildly impresses him. “Did you?”

“Yes. Basically.”

“Did you like it?”

“I loved it. All the action and noise.”

“The noise?”

“Sure. The noises are great—the pots and pans and utensils and searing sizzling food, the chefs hollering and shouting at each other and the wait staff running around and the doors and the plates. It’s a concert.”

“You… maybe you should just be a chef.”

“Dad’s convinced I should get a degree first. So I don’t limit my options. Also because…” Julian’s kind of staring at me. “Because he never was able to go to college himself and he thinks it’s too hard a life.”

Oh God. Stupid pale complexion showing everything all the time. I cover my cheeks with my hands. They’re burning.

“Okay, well… let me know if you want me to read the new versions,” he says. And he wheels away.

Julian’s presentation as a Marine with a medical separation due to his amputated leg was sensitively handled.  Cami admits that on the one hand it bothers her because it represents a painful loss to Julian but on the other hand, the loss of his leg doesn’t define him in Cami’s eyes or anyone else’s eyes in the book.

One of the things that I think young adult books do so well is show how the characters actually fall in love. Cami’s movement from resentment toward curiosity and into desire is believable and sweet. There are love scenes but they are tactful and appropriate for the tone of the book.  Overall, there’s just a sense of loveliness and sweetness about the romance and Cami’s journey that I hope others pick this book up and read it. B+

Best regards,

Jane

PS I know I’ve talked up this book a lot but I feel like at $1.99 it’s a low risk proposition.

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

14 Comments

  1. Sophia (FV)
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 09:22:59

    I pre-ordered this book when you were talking about it on Twitter. I might have passed on this one but you convinced me. Looking forward to reading it.

    ReplyReply

  2. Amanda
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 09:29:27

    My initial worry about this book was that it was a love triangle but from your summary that doesn’t sound like that is really the case. I think I will give it a try at that price.

    ReplyReply

  3. Jane
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 09:45:10

    @Amanda: No love triangle!

    yay, I’m so glad people are giving this book a try!

    ReplyReply

  4. Stephanie Doyle
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 10:50:22

    I pre-ordered this book when I heard Jane talking about it on the Podcast. I’m not the biggest NA fan so far (at least from what I’ve read) so this is a leap. But I’m really hoping I find a YA/NA contemp I can connect with.

    And this one sounds like it has… you know… food… so that’s good.

    ReplyReply

  5. Kristi
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 10:57:14

    Instant Order Update for Kristina Davis. You purchased this item on September 2, 2013

    Hmm. Looks like a great one!

    ReplyReply

  6. LeeF
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 11:07:24

    I had pretty much decided I wasn’t even going to try YA/NA because 1) the YA/NA designation annoys me for some inexplicable reason and 2) the whole “angsty” vibe makes me flashback to embarassing books I read as a teeneager. So- your enthusiastic review as well as the $1.99 price has convinced me to give it a go.

    ReplyReply

  7. Faye
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 11:43:10

    Clicked and bought!

    ReplyReply

  8. srs
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 11:55:55

    I think you pushed this on the Daily Deals a while ago and sold it so well that I pre-ordered, even though 1) I never pre-order 2) I rarely read YA/NA romance 3) I rarely read contemporaries. Your enthusiasm, the low price point, and the fact that the heroine wants to be a chef were enough to get me to click buy. So I think you’re doing a good job at getting people to read it.

    ReplyReply

  9. Nicole
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 12:06:31

    Your mention of this book in a daily deal post convinced me to preorder this book, and I’m really glad that I did. I loved Cami as a protagonist, and she actually had talents, friendships, and interests outside of her love life, which is a marked and welcome change from some New Adult books that I’ve read lately. I cannot say enough good things about this book. Its only fault is that I definitely didn’t get enough sleep last night due to reading it.

    ReplyReply

  10. Lada
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 14:06:28

    You convinced me to buy this book when you listed it as a Daily Deal. The excerpt you posted then…Cami creating soup on the fly…was good enough for me to get past my YA/NA aversion and buy it and I found it hard to wait to read it. Like @Nicole: I enjoyed it more because Cami has so much more than her teen-aged love life going for her. I agree that there is more sweetness than angst to this one

    ReplyReply

  11. Judi L
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 19:03:56

    I pre-ordered it when you were talking about it on Twitter. Started it last night.

    ReplyReply

  12. Christina
    Oct 02, 2013 @ 14:12:56

    Thank you for recommending this one. It was a really fun read.

    ReplyReply

  13. Sneha B
    Oct 06, 2013 @ 22:11:12

    Liked it! A steal at 1.99 :) Also, Felt like making soup after reading this. Definitely have munchies around while reading this…

    ReplyReply

  14. Jane’s Best of 2013
    Dec 15, 2013 @ 04:02:38

    […] 6) Crash Into You  |  Dare You To by Katie McGarry.  When I looked at the list of reviews, I couldn’t quite figure out which of the two of McGarry’s 2013 releases I liked the best.  Dare to You was different because the female protagonist butted up against the more sexually innocent male protagonist. I also felt that it was more Beth’s story whereas Crash Into You was more Isaiah’s story but the two are almost duologies because Beth and Isaiah were a couple I thought destined to be together who find their happy ever afters with someone else.  Both books have the same “flaw” in that they both rely on a fairly manipulative event at the end to bring about the climax.  But in both books, I didn’t care. I still loved them both. (P.S. if you loved McGarry’s work you owe it to yourself to check out Sabrina Elkins Stir Me Up.) […]

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