I received a copy from Penguin First to Read.
I went into this book not really knowing anything about it. It flagged my attention because I remembered if from my TBR list. I wasn’t expecting such an emotional gut-wrencher.
It starts with teenager Audrey wakened by firemen knocking on her door and some ungodly hour of the morning informing her of mandatory evacuation due to a raging wildfire. Audrey lives in Orange County, California. Her dad is out of town on a business trip and her mom and younger sister Maya have gone somewhere (I can’t remember where) for some really exclusive ballet audition for Maya. Audrey stayed home and went to a party the night before. It’s clear something happened there and she may be a tad hungover.
Naturally she’s completely freaked out and running around trying to figure out what to save, to get hold of her dad. She can’t bear the thought of freaking out her younger sister before her big audition. Also extremely worried over her boyfriend Brooks who is a volunteer firefighter.
What follows is an emotional roller coaster as Audrey comes to terms with the raging fire and how it’s effecting the people in her life. Also with flashback chapters on how she met Brooks and how their relationship developed.
It’s excellently written and the emotion pours out of the characters. Audrey comes across as a bit of a shy loner, with one best friend Grace. She doesn’t seem to get out much and feels a little left behind since Grace got a girlfriend, Quinn. Audrey works with Grace’s older brother Hayden on some AP projects for a class they’re in together. They’re friendly but you also get an impression something happened there as well that Audrey’s trying to avoid dealing with.
She meets Brooks at a party and they strike an immediate connection. He’s a loner as well, there’s gossip about him Audrey’s heard throughout the school grapevine but Brooks is nice and she doesn’t want to listen to rumours. Especially since they seem to be getting on so well. They start hanging out more and more and develop a deeper relationship going from friendship to something more romantic.
Audrey misses some red flags when Brooks’s behaviour starts changing. He’s got a complex past, his beloved brother died, he’s struggling to deal with it. Understandable. He can get her to talk, but doesn’t always seem to divulge much information about himself and gets annoyed and angry when asked about it. That should raise a few questions on its own. He doesn’t seem to like Audrey hanging out with her friends. He makes a scene about it when her friends show up at a birthday celebration for Audrey. He also seems kind of pushy about sex as well, especially since Audrey’s made it clear she wants to wait until she feels ready. Yet at the same time he can be very romantic as well.
The chapters switch between what is happening the day of the evacuation and what happened over the summer leading to that point. As Audrey gets closer to Brooks she starts ignoring her own friends, and there’s big questions about what happened to Brooks’s deceased brother. Audrey gets some pretty shocking information. Yet she still can’t seem to think of much else.
There’s also a really great family dynamic as well, Audrey and her sister are really close and their relationship with their parents is decently described as well. The parents are involved without being overbearing and not pushed to the background.
There was a surprising twist in regards to the wildfire as well.
Beautifully written and really emotional as well, this was a quick read but a very good one. Definitely an author I would read again.